Earth, the Ever-Changing Planet The history of the Earth describes the most important events and

fundamental stages in the development of the planet from its formation 4.5 billion years ago to the present day. Nearly all branches of natural science have contributed to the understanding of the main events of the Earth's past. The age of Earth is approximately onethird of the age of the universe. An immense amount of geological and biological change has occurred in that time span.

Earth formed through accretion from the solar nebula. Volcanic outgassing likely created the primordial atmosphere, but it contained almost no oxygen and would have been toxic to humans and most modern life. Much of the Earth was molten because of extreme volcanism and frequent collisions with other bodies. One very large collision is thought to have been responsible for tilting the Earth at an angle and forming the Moon.

Over time, such cosmic bombardments ceased, allowing our planet to cool and form a solid crust. Water that was brought here by comets and asteroids condensed into clouds and the oceans took shape. Earth was finally hospitable to life, and the earliest forms that arose enriched the atmosphere with oxygen. Life on Earth remained small and microscopic for at least a billion years. Then, during the Cambrian period of the Phanerozoic eon, it experienced a rapid diversification into many of its modern forms.

Biological and geological change has been constantly occurring on our planet since the time of its formation. Organisms continuously evolve, taking on new forms or going extinct in response to an ever-changing planet.

The process of plate tectonics has played a major role in the shaping of Earth's oceans and continents, as well as the life they harbor. The biosphere, in turn, has had a significant effect on the atmosphere and other abiotic conditions on the planet, such as the formation of the ozone layer, the proliferation of oxygen, and the creation of soil. Though humans are unable to perceive it due to their relatively brief life spans, this change is ongoing and will continue for the next few billion years.  Earth is unique in the Solar System for being (as far as we know) the only planet which is able to support life in all its forms: from basic living micro-organisms to highly sophisticated and intelligent human beings. There are several reasons why this is so. Atmosphere Earth has a breathable atmosphere. Oxygen, which is vital for most creatures, is present in Earth's atmosphere and also in its water. Oxygen is constantly supplied to the atmosphere by plants and trees. Earth's atmosphere also contains carbon dioxide, which is a poisonous gas that makes up most of the atmosphere of planets like Venus and Mars, rendering them unable to support life. However, its smaller presence on Earth is useful, as it helps moderate the planet's temperature and is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis in order to produce oxygen. Earth's atmosphere is kept around the planet by the pull of its gravity. Mars and Mercury are too small to maintain an atmosphere. As a result, Mercury has no atmosphere, and Mars' atmosphere is very thin, containing gases which have not managed to escape into space yet. Earth's atmosphere, on the other hand, is thick enough to prevent poisonous rays of radiation from reaching the planet. Climate Earth has a suitable climate. This is caused by the moderate amount of carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere, which is constantly refreshed whenever there is a volcanic eruption. Furthermore, the temperature on Earth does not go from one extreme to the other. Mercury, on the other hand, can be anything from 200°c below freezing to 375°c above. At 375°c, water would only exist as a gas, and the planet would be completely dry. Venus has a surface temperature of 480°c, which would be much too hot for anybody to live in. Mars is as cold as -140°c, a temperature which would freeze both water and blood. The other planets are colder still.

Water Earth has water! Water is believed to be the most important chemical necessary for life. It contains the vital oxygen, while other liquids contain poisonous elements. Water doesn't burn skin (like liquids containing acids do), it is drinkable, and it allows life-providing molecules to move around easily.

Other moons in the Solar System, such as Europa, a moon of Jupiter, are believed to have oceans of water under their icy surface. Scientists believe that, if traces of water are found on a solid celestial body, then life is possible there.

Water on Earth can be found anywhere, in its three states. It can be frozen, taking the form of ice. It can be liquid, as in rivers, seas, oceans and lakes. It can also be a gas, forming clouds. Light All planets receive light from the Sun, but no planet uses it as efficiently as Earth. Trees and plants on the planet produce oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. Plants need the Sun to grow. Notice, for instance, how plants placed near windows usually seem to grow towards the Sun. Try growing a plant in a dark room and in a light room. Notice which one grows quicker. The one which has grown quickest is the one which also produces more oxygen. It is believed that if we were able to get plants to grow on another planet, such as Mars, they would begin releasing oxygen into the planet's atmosphere and increase the possibility of life. For instance, Saturn's moon, Titan, has an atmosphere containing mainly nitrogen. If this moon was to possess oxygen, as well, in its atmosphere, it could have a similar atmosphere to Earth. Something else which helps plants on Earth is the length of time the planet takes to spin once on its axis. Taking just under 24 hours means that each side of the planet receives sunlight regularly. If we look at a planet like Venus, which takes 243 days to spin on its axis, it means that for a large period of time certain parts of the planet are in complete darkness. Thus, even if the planet could support life, it would struggle to do so.

The Sun All of the reasons given above for life existing on Earth are only possible because of one main reason. The Sun! Put simply, if there was no Sun, there would be no life on Earth. Technically, Earth probably wouldn't exist either! Because of Earth's ideal distance from the Sun, it receives the perfect amount of heat and light to allow life to be created and supported. Imagine what would happen if the Sun suddenly vanished. How would you keep warm? How would you see? How would plants and trees grow? Also, where would Earth end up? The Sun's gravity keeps Earth in its orbit, but if the Sun vanished, Earth would simply float away.

 There are several conditions that exist on Earth that make it the "just right" planet. Life is very picky and can only exist in a certain temperature range. Some planets like Venus are too hot and others such as Mars are too cold. However, the Earth's climate is perfectly suitable to sustain all of the biodiversity and life that we witness today. The most essential ingredient for life is the presence of liquid water. As we surely know, water spans somewhere between 70 to 75 percent of the entire surface area of the Earth. The reason that temperature is so important is because water is solid at temperatures below 0 Celsius and a gas at temperatures exceeding 100 Celsius. The distance of the Earth's orbit around the sun is what creates the perfect temperature balance. Any closer and the Earth would be too hot and any farther away would make it too cold. Also, since the Earth spins, it creates a good distribution of heat across the entire surface area. If the Earth did not spin, one side would be too hot while the other would be too cold for life to even hope to exist. The Earth is also the perfect size to allow life to flourish. It has enough gravitational force to keep the core in liquid state and to keep the light gas molecules in the atmosphere from flying off into space. Earth is also a very versatile planet. Over the 3.7 billion years that life has been around, the average temperature globally has only increased 10-20 degrees on average though the sun is outputting at 35% more energy now than before. It is also fortunate for life on this planet that there is a good concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere (around 21%). Any less oxygen and life on earth would literally suffocate and any more would cause any spark to ignite atmospheric oxygen into a giant flaming fireball visible from space. Also, thanks to some organisms that developed billions of years ago, we have the ozone layer to shield us from harmful incoming UV radiation.

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