Approximately 70.8% of Earth‘s surface is made up of the ocean, dwarfing Earth’s polar ice, lakes, and rivers. The remaining 29.2% of Earth’s surface is land, consisting of continents and islands. Earth’s surface layer is formed of several slowly moving tectonic plates, which interact to produce mountain ranges, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Earth’s liquid outer core generates the magnetic field that shapes the magnetosphere of Earth, deflecting destructive solar winds.
The atmosphere of Earth consists mostly of nitrogen and oxygen. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere like carbon dioxide (CO2) trap a part of the energy from the Sun close to the surface. Water vapor is widely present in the atmosphere and forms clouds that cover most of the planet. More solar energy is received by tropical regions than polar regions and is redistributed by atmospheric and ocean circulation. A region’s climate is governed not only by latitude but also by elevation and proximity to moderating oceans. In most areas, severe weather, such as tropical cyclones, thunderstorms, and heat waves, occurs and greatly impacts life.
Earth is an ellipsoid with a circumference of about 40,000 km. It is the densest planet in the Solar System. Of the four rocky planets, it is the largest and most massive. Earth is about eight light-minutes away from the Sun and orbits it, taking a year (about 365.25 days) to complete one revolution. The Earth rotates around its own axis in slightly less than a day (in about 23 hours and 56 minutes). The Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted with respect to the perpendicular to its orbital plane around the Sun, producing seasons. Earth is orbited by one permanent natural satellite, the Moon, which orbits Earth at 380,000 km (1.3 light seconds) and is roughly a quarter as wide as Earth. Through tidal locking, the Moon always faces the Earth with the same side, which causes tides, stabilizes Earth’s axis, and gradually slows its rotation.