Earth, Geological history

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Earth, also known as the world, Terra, or Gaia, is the third planet from the Sun, the densest planet in the Solar System, the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets, and the only celestial body known to accommodate life. It is home to millions of species, including billions of humans who depend upon its biosphere and minerals. The Earth's human population is divided among about two hundred independent states that interact through diplomacy, conflict, travel, trade, and media.


Earth's atmosphere and oceans formed by volcanic activity and outgassing that included water vapor. The origin of the world's oceans was condensation augmented by water and ice delivered by asteroids, proto-planets, and comets. In this model, atmospheric "greenhouse gases" kept the oceans from freezing while the newly forming Sun was only at 70% luminosity. By , the Earth's magnetic field was established, which helped prevent the atmosphere from being stripped away by the solar wind.

A crust formed when the molten outer layer of the planet Earth cooled to form a solid as the accumulated water vapor began to act in the atmosphere. The two models that explain land mass propose either a steady growth to the present-day forms or, more likely, a rapid growth early in Earth history followed by a long-term steady continental area. Continents formed by plate tectonics, a process ultimately driven by the continuous loss of heat from the earth's interior. On time scales lasting hundreds of millions of years, the supercontinents have formed and broken up three times. Roughly (million years ago), one of the earliest known supercontinents, Rodinia, began to break apart. The continents later recombined to form Pannotia, 600–, then finally Pangaea, which also broke apart .

The present pattern of ice ages began about and then intensified during the Pleistocene about . High-latitude regions have since undergone repeated cycles of glaciation and thaw, repeating every 40–. The last continental glaciation ended 10,000 years ago.

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  • WikipediaEarth – ProfileEarth – Temperature and Precipitation ExtremesEarth – Climate Changes Cause Shape to Change

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