Humans still haven’t discovered a planet that compares to the beautiful blue marble we call Earth. And yet it feels like we’re becoming more and more disconnected from it. Glued to our smartphones and computers, we can feel pretty far away from nature, making it easy to forget just how weird and wonderful our world really is. Take a moment to get in touch with your inner Earthling — and change the way you see home — by considering these world-altering facts about our 4.54 billion-year-old planet.
Hurtling through space at 67,000 MPH
When we picture the Earth orbiting the sun, we often think of the model we've seen in elementary school: a stationary star with various planets orbiting around in neat circles. But we forget that the sun itself is also moving.
This means that our solar system is more like a collection of spinning asteroids shooting through space at a whopping 67,000 miles per hour. Don't worry — it's nearly impossible for us to collide with another system. At least not for another few billion years...
We're spinning how fast?
As the Earth spins around the sun, it also spins on its axis at a staggering speed. 1,000 miles per hour, to be precise. For reference, that's about double the speed of a commercial airplane! It might sound like a free rollercoaster ride, but if it ever stopped, it'd be seriously bad news.
If we came to a halt, earthquakes and tsunamis would rock the planet, then the sun would bake Earth on one side while the other side froze over. Even if we managed to start spinning again, the atmosphere would continue to rotate. Feeling dizzy yet?
Earth isn't a circle
Sorry, but it's not flat, either! The Earth is actually closer to a sphere, if that sphere were flattened and stretched out at the equator. But why the bulge around the middle?
It comes from the gravity produced by the planet's rotation around the sun. And if we're getting really technical, the shape of Earth is referred to as an "oblate spheroid." The more you know!
Earth is basically a giant magnet
The north and south poles of Earth align with the planet's magnetic field, which reaches thousands of miles into space. This "magnetosphere" is believed to exist because of the Earth's molten outer core, which produces enough electricity to magnetize solar winds to the Earth's surface.
Thankfully, these winds protect us from the sun's radiation. Without this built-in planetary sunblock, scientists believe we'd look a lot more like Mars — barren and torn apart by UV exposure.