You are on page 1of 4

The Earth is made of many different and distinct layers.

The deeper layers are composed of heavier materials; they are hotter, denser and under much greater pressure than the outer layers. Core: The Earth has a iron-nickel core that is about 2,100 miles in radius. The inner core may have a temperature up to about 13,000°F (7,200°C = 7,500 K), which is hotter than the surface of the Sun. The inner core (which has a radius of about 750 miles (1,228 km) is solid. The outer core is in a liquid state and is about 1,400 miles (2,260 km) thick.

Mantle: Under the crust is the rocky mantle, which is composed of silicon, oxygen, magnesium, iron, aluminum, and calcium. The upper mantle is rigid and is part of thelithosphere (together with the crust). The lower mantle flows slowly, at a rate of a few centimeters per year. The asthenosphere is a part of the upper mantle that exhibits plastic properties. It is located below the lithosphere (the crust and upper mantle), between about 100 and 250 kilometers deep. Convection (heat) currents carry heat from the hot inner mantle to the cooler outer mantle. The mantle is about 1,700 miles (2,750 km) thick. The mantle gets warmer with depth; the top of the mantle is about 1,600° F (870° C); towards the bottom of the mantle, the temperature is about 4,000-6,700° F (2,200-3,700° C). The mantle contains most of the mass of the Earth. The Gutenberg discontinuity separates the outer core and the mantle. Surface and crust: The Earth's surface is composed mostly of water, basalt and granite. Oceans cover about 70% of Earth's surface. These oceans are up to 3.7 km deep. The Earth's thin, rocky crust is composed of silicon, aluminum, calcium, sodium and potassium. For a page on soil, click here.

which includes the islands of Sumatra and Java in Indonesia. water. Antarctic. Once this happens. The Indonesian Island Arc. It is about 7 kilometers (4 miles) thick. mountain formation. One such volcanic arc exists where the oceanic crust of the Australian plate subducts under the continental crust of the Eurasian plate. Oceanic crust. underneath the lighter continental crust. Unlike continental crust. Continental crust. Arabian. Canada. Earth has three layers.metal core. Cocos. creating crust as it cools. Pacific. African. and Nazca plates. A chain of volcanoes formed at a subduction zone is called a volcanic arc. This important process is called subduction. The heaviest material. Eventually. Its thickness varies between 10 and 75 kilometers (6 to 47 miles). Continental crust is almost always much older than oceanic crust. The crust is divided into two types: oceanic crust andcontinental crust. . a rigid layer about 100-200 km thick. In this way. The crust is thinner under the oceans (6-11 km thick). this is where new crust is formed. Some of the oldest rocks in the world can be found in the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt in Quebec. At the center of the Earth is the extremely hot. oceanic crust is still being formed in places called mid-ocean ridges. This continental crust formation has rocks that are about 4 billion years old. then rises up again as magma in the mid-ocean ridges. Here. Juan de Fuca. Tectonic plates actually slide around on the mantle. Caribbean. Earths crust is divided into 15 major tectonic plates: the North American. Oceanic crust is heavier than continental crust. magma from the mantle erupts through cracks in the ocean floor. found under the ocean floor. the Earth started out as a hot. has some of the most powerful volcanoes in the world. The crust is the outermost layer of the Earth. Scotia. oceanic crust sinks low enough to enter the mantle. gooey ball of rock. is made of less dense rocks such as granite. is made of dense rocks such as basalt. causingearthquakes. mostly iron and nickel. Eurasian. Philippine. These surface rocks became the crust. the Earth enjoys a brand-new oceanic crust once every 200 million years or so. The lithosphere is defined as the crust and the upper mantle. Beneath the crust is the mantle. which is made of magma and other semi-solid rocks andminerals. the crust melts. Indian.The crust is divided into continental plates which drift slowly (only a few centimeters each year) atop the less rigid mantle. The heavy oceanic crust is constantly sinking. and other geologic activity on the crust. very slowly. and moderate temperature prevents organisms from living in the mantle or core. The lack of air. The Mohorovicic discontinuity is the separation between the crust and the upper mantle. volcanoes. The surface of the Earth slowly cooled off and hardened. South American. Continental crust is about 25-90 km thick. Australian. found under land masses. continental drift. sank to the center of the Earth and became the core. Billions of years ago.

The Mantle The next layer down is called the Mantle. We'll tell you more about tectonic plates in our next Instruction.032 degrees Fahrenheit -.about 7." and these plates are moving all the time -. Scientists often refer to the top part of the Upper Mantle and the Crust together as the Lithosphere. South America. North America.about 10. Tectonic means "moving. It is made up of iron.200 to 3. The Outer Core begins about 1.although you don't feel it except during earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. liquid part of the Upper Mantle (the Asthenosphere) like a marshmallow on hot chocolate. there are two parts to the Earth's Crust -. Antarctica and Australia. nickel. but is made up of large masses called tectonic plates. The Core The center of the Earth is called the Core. It floats on the lower. It is not a continuous layer.800 to 3. It is cooler than the Inner Core -. The Mantle is also divided into two parts. too. These continents are Eurasia (Europe and Asia). The Lithosphere is the coldest. Actually.200 to 9. the layer we walk around on. It is mostly between 10 to 25 miles thick.200 miles beneath the Earth's surface. The land part is called the Continental Crust. But the pressure is so great that it remains solid. It is from 3. Africa. with some nickel.so it remains liquid. It. It is a dense metallic ball made mostly of iron. although it goes up to 45 miles thick in some places. sulfur and oxygen.theInner Core and the Outer Core. most brittle of Earth's layers. It is called the Oceanic Crust and is between 4 and 7 miles thick. It is divided into six continents. It is very hot -. is made up of two parts -.a land part and a water part. is called the Crust. . It is firm on top with liquid rock on the bottom. The Upper Mantel is made up of silicates of iron and magnesium. like the Crust.000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is made up of rock that floated to the surface when the Earth was formed. The Crust The uppermost layer. Beneath the Upper Mantle lies the Inner (or Lower) Mantle. The water part of the Earth's Crust is at the bottom of the oceans. It is the layer closest to the Earth's Core. These parts are the Outer (or Upper) Mantle and the Inner (or Lower) Mantel.The Layers of the Earth Let's start at the surface and move downward. The Inner Core is about 780 miles thick.960 miles beneath the Earth's surface.

The crust is divided into huge plates that float on the mantle. Plate tectonics is the theory explaining the motion of these plates. Mountains form when the plates collide and deep trenches form when one plate slides under another plate. When the mantle pushes through the crust. but only Earth has the right combination to sustain life. Mantle The mantle under the crust is about 1. This convection — like a lava lamp — is believed to be what causes the tectonic plates to move. The plates are constantly in motion. which has two parts. it causes the air molecules to glow. silicon and potassium. It is composed mostly of silicate rocks rich in magnesium and iron. They then cool and sink back down to the core. 3 percent. This is thought to cause Earth's magnetic field. Other worlds — including a few moons — have atmospheres. sulfur.800 miles deep (2. These currents are called convection currents. scientists think it contains sulfur. Intense heat causes the rocks to rise. Earth's oceans cover about 70 percent of the planet's surface with an average depth of 2. 14 percent. magnesium. aluminum and other elements. Earth's crust is between three and 46 miles (five and 75 km) deep.220 km). 30 percent. the next layer.180 km) thick. silicon. the outermost layer.5 miles (4 kilometers). nickel. which causes much of Earth's weather.In addition to iron and nickel. they move at about the same rate as fingernails grow. It is these convection currents that cause the tectonic plates on the Earth's surface to move. causing the auroras — the northern and southern lights. and trace amounts of calcium. 32 percent. And it is this movement of tectonic plates that causes volcanic eruptions. oxygen. carbon. Earth has multiple layers. It is surrounded by a liquid. 2 percent. The solid. When charged particles from the solar wind collide with air molecules above Earth's magnetic poles. ice. earthquakes and mountain building Earth is unique among the known planets: it has an abundance of water. Core At the center of the Earth is the core. inner core of iron has a radius of about 760 miles (about 1. Crust Earth's crust is made up of several elements: iron. The inner core spins at a different speed than the rest of the planet. It is about 1. The thickest parts are under the continents and the thinnest parts are under the oceans. it radiates currents of heat upward toward the upper layers. and even oceans. Earthquakes occur when these plates grind against each other. outer core composed of a nickel-iron alloy. . oxygen.355 miles (2. 15 percent. The ocean basins and the continents compose the crust. Because this Core is so hot. volcanoes erupt.890 km). Fresh water exists in liquid form in lakes and rivers and as water vapor in the atmosphere.