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Mercury  Venus  Earth  Mars  Jupiter  Saturn  Uranus  Neptune  Pluto


Using the classification based on size, Earth is one of the small planets, along with Mercury, Venus, Mars and Pluto. The small planets all have diameters less than 13000 kilometers.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are known as the giant planets or sometimes the gas giants. These planets have diameters greater than 48000 kilometers.

Where is It?
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, located in between Venus and Mars. The orbit, or path it follows around the Sun is nearly a perfect circle. The closest Earth comes to the Sun is a little over 146 million kilometers., and the furthest away we get is about 152 million kilometers. The average distance of the Earth from the Sun is about 150 million kilometers.

The average distance of the Earth from the Sun is called an astronomical unit (or a.u.).

How Did It Get Its Name?
Earth is the only planet that does not have a name from either Greek or Roman mythology. The word that most of the people on Earth use for the planet comes from German/English origins.

How long are its years and days?
The Earth takes 365.25 days to revolve around the Sun. One revolution around the Sun is called a year. So one year is 365 days and every fourth year has 366 days. That is called a leap year. It takes the Earth 24 hours to rotate around its axis. One rotation is call a day. So one day is 24 hours.

How Big Is It?
Earth is a little over 12800 kilometers. in diameter, and about 39000 kilometers. around the equator. On a size basis, the Earth is right in the middle of the planetary family, with four planets, Pluto, Mercury, Venus and Mars, being smaller, and four planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, being larger.

What Is It Made Of?
Earth seems to be very unusual. Earth has a core, or center, that is solid and made up mostly of iron. The large amount of iron is what creates the magnetic field that makes compasses work.

On top of the solid core is a very thick layer of molten, or liquid, rock. This layer is called the “mantle” and is where the lava and ash of the many volcanoes come from.

On top of the mantle is the solid layer that makes up the continents and the ocean floors. This is actually very thin, averaging less than 50 kilometers. thick. The continents actually float around on “plates” that form this top layer.
Surrounding the solid surface are layers of atmosphere. The atmosphere consists of many gases including oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

What Is It Like on The Surface?
The weather on Earth varies a great deal, from very cold at either the north or south poles to very warm at the equator. Compared to other planets, the temperature on Earth are mild.

The seasons on Earth are caused by the fact the Earth’s axis is not upright or vertical. Earth is titled at an angle of 23.5 degrees. South of the equator, the weather is warmer from November to February. This is because at this time the southern half of the planet is tilted towards the Sun. It is cooler during the rest of the year when the northern half of the planet is tilted towards the Sun.

How Many Moons Does It Have?
Earth has one Moon. The Moon has been an important part of culture, literature and mythology since time began. The Moon is about one-fourth the size of Earth, with a diameter of a little over 3200 kilometers. Earth is the only planet in the solar system that has solar eclipses. These happen when the Moon hides the Sun.

Does it have any special features?
Earth is the only planet which supports animal and plant life. Also, it is the only planet with oceans of warm water.

Resources Used
Astronomy for Kids
Small Worlds David Drew: Nelson, 1989
The Gas Giants David Drew: Nelson, 1989

Solar System Unit  |  Classification  |  Glossary

Images from: Astronomy Picture of the Day

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