Investigating Planet Earth

Investigating Planet Earth

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Investigating Planet Earth

The Structure of the Earth-

[IMAGE]

The Crust:

This region is thin compared to the other layers in the Earth. It
varies in thickness from 10km deep to 65km deep. The crust is made up
of lighter rocks that "float" on top of the mantle. This layer
includes the continents as well as the rock under the oceans. The
thickness of the crust might be a little deceiving... to put it into
perspective, we have built many deep mines but NONE have yet reached
the mantle!

The Mantle:

This region lies under the crust and is approximately 2900km thick.
The mantle is much denser than the crust (which is why the crust
floats on top) and has a texture much like tar. The rock in this
region is rich in compounds made from iron, magnesium, and silicon,
which accounts for why it is denser than the crust.

The Core:

This region is divided into two parts. The outer part is called the
Outer Core. It is about 2100km thick and made of liquid nickel and
iron. The inner part is called the Inner Core and it is the real
centre of the Earth. This part is about 2800km in diameter and is made
of solid iron and nickel.


Plate tectonics
---------------

Plate tectonics are a reasonably new theory that has revolutionized
the way geologists thinks about the Earth. According to the theory,
the surface of the Earth is broken into large plates. The size and
position of these plates change over time. The edges of these plates,
where they move against each other, this causes earthquakes,
volcanoes, and mountain building. Plate tectonics is a combination of
two earlier ideas, continental drift and sea-floor spreading.

The Earth is made up of several of these different layers. The outer
layer is called the Crust. It is made of the lighter, less dense,
rocks that floated to the surface when the Earth was formed. The
deepest mine in the world is only 3.

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3km deep, and nobody has ever been
able to drill down further than 15km. Everything that exists below
this is worked out by scientists using evidence from earthquakes,
volcanoes and meteorites. Being relatively cold, the crust is rocky
and brittle, so it can fracture during earthquakes. The crust is not a
continuous layer of rocks but consists of large masses, called plates,
which are free to drift slowly across the surface of the planet. There
are two types of crust - Continental and Oceanic. Continental crust is
less dense, much older and much thicker than Oceanic crust.
Continental crust floats on the mantle rather like an iceberg floats
in water.

There is a balance that exists between the level of the crust and the
mantle. If the crust builds up in one area, it will push down on the
mantle with more force causing some of the material to move away...
this results in another area of the crust being pushed up by the
material from that mantle that has been moved away If material is
moved off the crust, the mantle pushes up harder causing that area of
land to rise and another area (where the material of the mantle came
from) to sink. This process goes on constantly and always maintains a
balance of downward forces from the crust with the upward forces from
the mantle.
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