Earth: Its Structure and Composition A Written Report

[this was originally done in ms publisher, sorry for some inconsistencies, for comments please do send me an email @ reignman2000@yahoo.com.ph your comments are most welcome]


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Geographical coordinates . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Structure of the Solid Earth . . . . . . . . . 7 Earth’s Shape and Size . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Earth’s Division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Introduction Earth is made up of four basic parts: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere, and the biosphere. The atmosphere is made up of the gases that surround the planet. The hydrosphere consists of the water in the oceans, lakes, rivers, and air. The lithosphere is the rocky surface of Earth both on land and under the oceans. The biosphere encompasses all living things on Earth. The actions and interactions between these components are what make the Earth a constantly changing entity. Weather changes, rain falls, soil washes away, and plants take

in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, all through the properties of solids, liquids, and gases. On this paper, lithosphere will be greatly addressed. It will include earth’s geographical coordinates, structure, shape and size, and divisions.


Earth’s Geographical Coordinates The Earth is not a sphere, but an irregular shape approximating an ellipsoid; the challenge is to define a coordinate system that can accurately state each topographical point as an unambiguous tuple of numbers.

Latitude and longitude

Latitude phi (φ) and Longitude lambda (λ)

Latitude (abbreviation: Lat., φ, or phi) is the angle from a
point on the Earth's surface to the equatorial plane, measured from the center of the sphere. Lines joining points of the same latitude are called parallels, which trace concentric circles on the surface of the Earth, parallel to the equator. The north pole is 90° N; the south pole is 90° S. The 0° parallel of

latitude is designated the equator, the fundamental plane of all geographic coordinate systems. The equator divides the globe into Northern and Southern Hemispheres. e at the north and south poles.


Earth’s Shape and Size Speculations ……. • Once believed that the Earth is flat and that ships could sail over the edge. • View persisted into the Middle ages and was an issue in recruitment for Columbus.(The Flat Earth Society) • The Flat Earth Society still alive and well and describe

the Earth as “being a disk with a circumference of about 78225 miles and a diameter of 24900 miles. The sun and moon are both disks about 32 miles in diameter …and are about 3000 miles above the Earth, and the stars about 100 miles above the sun and moon. The Flat Earth Society also maintains that the Earth is accelerating upward at a rate of 9.8 m/s², thereby simulating gravity. This upward momentum is caused by the "Universal Accelerator", a vague term used by the Society to describe a

force that originated at the Big Bang and caused the Earth to speed upwards. Gravity cannot exist on a flat Earth since the disc shape would eventually collapse on itself. However, other planetary bodies such as the moon and the sun have gravitational pulls, causing the gravitational force on an object to decrease as it increases in altitude. This also allows spacecraft to orbit." Historical perspective • Early Greek view was that the world was surrounded by Oceanus, origin of all rivers. • Anaximander (600 B.C.) – cylindrical earth surrounded by celestial sphere.

Longitude (abbreviation: Long., λ, or lambda) is the angle east
or west of a reference meridian between the two geographical poles to another meridian that passes through an arbitrary point. All meridians are halves of great circles, and are not parallel. They converge at the north and south poles. A line passing to the rear of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (near London in the UK) has been chosen as the international zero-longitude reference line, the Prime Meridian.

Places to the east are in the eastern hemisphere, and places to the west are in the western hemisphere. The antipodal meridian of Greenwich is both 180°W and 180°E. In 1884, the United States hosted the International Meridian Conference and twenty-five nations attended. Twenty-two of them agreed to adopt the location of Greenwich as the zeroreference line. San Domingo voted against the adoption of that motion, while France and Brazil abstained. To date, there exist organizations around the world which continue using historical prime meridians before the acceptance of Greenwich and the illattended conference became common-place. The combination of these two components specifies the position of any location on the planet, but does not consider altitude nor depth. Degrees: a measurement of angle There are several formats for writing degrees, all of them appearing in the same Lat, Long order. DMS Degrees:Minutes:Seconds (49°30'00"N, 123°30'00"W) DM Degrees:Decimal Minutes (49°30.0', -123°30.0'), (49d30.0m, 123d30.0') DD Decimal Degrees (49.5000°,-123.5000°), generally with 4-6 decimal numbers. Geodesic height

To completely specify a location of a topographical feature on, in, or above the Earth, one has to also specify the vertical distance from the centre of the sphere, or from the surface of the sphere. Because of the ambiguity of "surface" and "vertical", it is more commonly expressed relative to a more precisely defined vertical datum such as mean sea level at a named point. Each country has defined its own datum. In the United Kingdom, the reference point is Newlyn. The distance to Earth's centre can be used both for very deep positions and for positions in space. Cartesian coordinates Every point that is expressed in spherical coordinates can be expressed as an x y z (Cartesian) coordinate. This is not a useful method for recording a position on maps but is used to calculate distances and to perform other mathematical operations. The origin is usually the center of the sphere, a point close to the center of the Earth. The Earth is not static as points move relative to each other due to continental plate motion, subsidence, and diurnal movement caused by the Moon and the tides. The daily movement can be as much as a metre. Continental movement can be up to 10 cm a year, or 10 m in a century. A weather system high-pressure area can cause a sinking of 5 mm. Scandinavia is rising by 1 cm a year as a result of the melting

of the ice sheets of the last ice age, but neighbouring Scotland is
only rising by 0.2 cm. These changes are insignificant if a local datum is used, but are significant if the global GPS datum is used.

Expressing latitude and longitude as linear units On a spherical surface at sea level, one latitudinal second measures 30.82 metres and one latitudinal minute 1849metres, and one latitudinal degree is 110.9kilometres. The circles of longitude, meridians, meet at the geographical poles, with the west-east width of a second being dependent on the latitude. On the equator at sea level, one longitudinal second measures 30.92metres, a longitudinal minute 1855metres, and a longitudinal degree 111.3kilometres. At 30° a longitudinal second is 26.76, at Greenwich (51° 28' 38" N) is 19.22metres, and at 60° it is 15.42. Geostationary coordinates Geostationary satellites (e.g., television satellites) are over the equator at a specific point on Earth, so their position related to Earth is expressed in longitude degrees only. Their latitude is always zero, that is, over the equator.


Samson, Dr. Scott A. GIS Notes is published by the Geospatial Extension unit of the GeoResources Institute at Mississippi State University.

Toomer, G. J Ptolemy's Almagest.

Princeton University Press, 1998. (Originally published by Duckworth, 1984.)

UAF Geophysical Institute (ATEP ©2008)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ http://www.sciencenews.org/ http://www.gri.msstate.edu/

• Pythogoras (582-507 B.C.) believed the Earth was a sphere, which was considered the most harmonious geometric shape. • Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) described observations that supported the theory that the Earth was a sphere. These included (1) the fact that the shadow of the moon is circular in lunar eclipses (2) constellations were higher in the sky as one traveled south. Observations that suggest the Earth is a sphere • Mountain peaks lit by the Sun after sunset. • Ships disappear below the horizon as they sail across ocean. • The moon looks like a disk. Is the Earth the same shape? • The Earth casts a circular shadow during lunar eclipses.

Quantitative approach to computing the radius of the Earth Eratosthenes (275-195 B.C.) Estimated size of Earth from observations that the elevation of the sun varied with position on the Earth’s surface in Egypt. Measurement 1: Angular distance Aswan - Alexandria On the summer solstice, the sun was overhead in Aswan, since it illuminated a deep well. On the same day, the sun was at an angle of 7° 14’ to the vertical in Alexandria. Measurement 2 : Distance on ground Aswan – Alexandria The distance Aswan-Alexandria was estimated at 5000 stadia = 925 km Combining these measurements, can show that the circumference

Earth’s Division Human beings have always imagined what it would be like to journey to the center of the Earth. There are many books and movies about characters who have adventures that take them to the Earth’s core, or even all the way to the other side of world! It’s fun to pretend that we can tunnel to other side, but scientists have proven that humans will never be able to dig through the center of the Earth. The Earth has three very thick

layers, and the center is so hot that humans could never survive there. Layers of the Earth The Core

The core is the innermost layer of the Earth. It is made up of two parts: the inner core and the outer core. At the very center of the Earth is the inner core. It is solid, and is made up almost entirely of iron. The inner core remains solid because it is under an extreme amount of pressure. It is about 1200 kilometers thick. Inner Core This layer is solid. Pressure – 45000000 pounds/sq.inch, Inner Core’s pressure is 3000000 million greater than the sea level. It consists of the metals nickel and iron and is also better known with the name of NiFe.


The Earth’s Layers

Its temperature is 9,000 degree Fahrenheit.

It is 800miles thicker, 4000 miles beneath the crust. The core is composed mainly of iron and nickel. In the inner core, iron and nickel are solid. Although the inner core is very hot, pressure from the weight of the rest of the Earth doesn’t allowed the material to melt. Outer Core Thickness – 1400 miles. This is consists of liquid due to the high temperatures like 4000oF – 9000oF. It is located 1800 miles beneath the crust. This layer consists of nickel and iron and is better known as NiFe{Nickel & Ferrous(Iron)}. Because less weight is exerted on the outer core, the pressure is less there, so iron and nickel present here are in liquid state.

The Mantle

The middle layer of Earth is called the mantle. At 2900 kilometers deep, it is the thickest layer of the Earth. Like the core, the mantle has two layers, the upper and lower mantle. Because of its thickness, the mantle is where most of the Earth’s heat is located. The average temperature of the Earth’s

mantle is about 1000 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the mantle remains a solid, but is flexible

like plastic. When a heavy load like an ice cap pushes on the mantle, it can flex and move out of the way to make room. Once the load lessens, the mantle can return to its original position. This layer is semi liquid It consists of magnesium, iron, and silicon Width – 3000 Km. It is more solid closer to the surface The mantle is composed of hot iron-rich silicate rocks. Flow in the mantle occurs as convection currents; hot material in the mantle rises, cools and then sinks. Mantle is elastic which means it behave in plastic manner. Thickness – 1800 miles

The Crust

The top layer of the Earth is called the crust. The crust is the layer upon which we live and build our cities. The crust is the layer that can sustain life, yet it is the thinnest layer of the Earth. If you measure the thickness of the Earth’s mantle on a

continent, it would be between 35 and 75 kilometers thick. If measured from the deepest basins of the ocean, the mantle is only 5 to 10 kilometers thick. It is made up of brittle minerals like calcium and sodium. Because it is very cold compared to the mantle and core, the crust is easily cracked and broken. However, the crust is also where we find valuable resources like oil, water, and gas.

Non-spherical Earth

It was soon realized that the Earth was not a perfect sphere. Jean Richer (1620- 1682) was a French astronomer who made observations in 1671 from the island of Cayenne in French Guyana. In addition to measuring the distance of planet Mars from Earth, he also noted that a pendulum swung slower on Cayenne Island than in Paris. He deduced that this was because gravity was weaker on Cayenne, which implied that Cayenne was further from the centre of the Earth than Paris.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) suggested that the Earth was an oblate spheroid because it rotates - somewhat flattened at the poles. A debate followed about whether this was true, because measurements were not very accurate. Surveys in Peru (equator,

1735-43) and (equator, 1735-43) showed that flattening occurred as suggested. The deformation is now described by the International Reference Ellipsoid. This is the shape the Earth would have if it’s composition was uniform. A number of ellipsoids have been defined as data quality has improved.


The Earth is round (based on Ptolemy)


find that the phenomena at eclipses, especially lunar

eclipses, which take place at the same time [for all observers], are nevertheless not recorded as occurring at the same hour (that is at an equal distance from noon) by all observers. Rather, the hour recorded by the more easterly observers is always later than that recorded by the more westerly. We find that the differences in the hour are proportional to the distances between the places. The hour at each place is determined by the position of thesun or stars. So this phenomenon shows that the sun and stars rise at an earlier hour for those in the east, In proportion to the distance east.

This must happen if the earth curves uniformly east west. It wouldn't happen if the earth didn't curve uniformly east-west.

Proofs that the Earth is round (all of which were known to Aristotle): A. Aesthetical evidence: the sphere is the most beautiful shape. B. Astronomical evidence: 1. If Flat: stars would rise and set simultaneously for all longitudes. 2. If Concave: rising stars would be seen first at western latitudes. 3. East-West convexity: the same lunar eclipse observed in different locations, but not at same local times. 4. North-South convexity: circumpolar stars not the same for all; new stars appear if travel north or south. 5. 3D sphere: Earth's shadow always curved during lunar eclipse.

6. Macrocosm-microcosm analogy: Circumpolar stars (and rising and settings of other stars)suggest that the universe is spherical. C. Terrestrial evidence: Ships "hull down." Terrestrial landmarks seen first from the mast. D. Theoretical evidence: According to gravity, earthy objects tend on all sides

of the Earth = 360 *925/7.23 = 46058 km. Correct value = 40030 km. Error = 15% Jean Picard (1620-1682) Measured the length of ~1 degree of latitude in France in 166970 and obtained a value of 6329 km for the radius of the Earth. Polar radius known to be 6357 km which is an error of 0.4%. Another approach - the double sunset • A seated observer watches the sunset over the horizon (A) at the Equator. As soon as the sun sets, he jumps to his feet and enjoys a few extra seconds of sunlight before the sun sets again (B).

(a) (b)

Ellipsoid reference GRS 80

Semi-major axis Semi-minor axis b a 6,378,137.0 m

Inverse flattening (1/f) 298.257222101

͌ 6,356,752.314140 m ͌6,356,752.314245 m

WGS 84

6378137.0 m


This is the layer that we live on. The thickness ranges from 5 thick miles under the oceans to 25 miles thick under the continents. The crust is composed of two rocks; granite and basalt. It is also known as SiAl (Silicon & Aluminium).

Continental Crust Continental Crust: The crust under the continents Thicker than oceanic crust, 20-45 miles thick Composed of mostly granite Older than oceanic crust Density is 2.7 g/cm3

Oceanic Crust Oceanic Crust: Crust under the oceans. Thinner than continental crust, 4-7 miles thick. Composed mostly of basalt. Younger than continental crust.

Density is 3 g/cm3. Basalt is much denser than the granite. Because of this the less dense continents ride on the denser oceanic plates.

Summing Up With special instruments, scientists have been able to create detailed maps of the Earth’s layers. By measuring temperature, sound waves, and other factors, earth scientists are able to find fossil fuels, element deposits, and even underground lakes! New technologies even allow scientists to study the changes deep in Earth’s core. We may never be able to journey to the center of the Earth, but each day scientists make discoveries that help us understand more about the planet upon which we live.


Structure of the Solid Earth Geologist today have a fairly clear model of earth’s structure from its surface to its very center. Since the cenetr

is nearly 6,000 kms. from the surface, most of this model is based on indirect evidences. Consider the model that the geologists describe. At its center is a spherical inner core, 200 kilometers in diameter. The inner core is made up of solid iron and nickel. Surrounding the inner core is the outer core about 2250 kilometers thickmade of liquid iron and nickel. Then comes a 2900 kilometer-thick layer of heavy rocks rich in compounds of iron and, magnesium and silicon. This layer called the mantle reaches almost the earth’s surface. The manthle is covered by alayer of lighter rocks called the crust. The crust ranges in thickness from about 10 kilometers below the ocean basins to about 65 kilometers below the continents. Mines and well go deep into the crust, but none have reached the mantle.



References Credits to the following: Adamchuk, Viacheslav and Thomas, Shana

Agote, Rhodora et. Al, Instructional Material in Physical Science

Anderson, Don L. Theory of the Earth. Boston: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1989.

Birch, F. (1952) Elasticity and constitution of the Earth's interior, J. Geophys. Res., 57, 227-286.

Chelsea House Publications | 2008 | ISBN: 0791096777

Clayton, R. W. and R. P. Comer (1988) Reconstruction of mantle

Condie, K. C. (1982) Plate Tectonics and Crustal Evolution, 2nd ed., Pergamon, New York, 3 10 pp.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Columbus (Oxford University Press, 1991).

A readable biography of Columbus by a noted Columbus scholar.

Jeffrey Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (Praeger Paperback, 1997)

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