Nine Mind-Boggling Facts About the Earth

Maddy Snyder, Staff Writer/Editor

In celebration of Earth Day, here are nine incredible facts about the planet we call home. 


 1.) The Earth is approximately 4.543 billion years old. 

Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago when gravity pulled gas and dust together to create a collection of matter that, with the help of collisions from dust particles, asteroids, and other planets, would become the planet we know today. 

To put 4.543 billion years into perspective, that’s about 56,787,500 human lifetimes and 1,971,000,000,000,000 seemingly never ending seventh hours. What’s even more shocking is that humans are estimated to have evolved about five to seven million years ago, meaning the Earth existed for billions of years before humans. It exemplifies just how small and insignificant our species is in the grand scheme of the universe.


2.) A dam in China is making the days longer. 

In 2006, China finished construction on a massive hydroelectric dam called the Three Gorges Dam. The dam is 2,335 meters (7,660 feet) long with a maximum height of 185 meters (607 feet), and it incorporates 28 million cubic meters of concrete and 463,000 metric tons of steel. 

As you can imagine, this design is unprecedently large. So large, in fact, that it is slowing the rotation of the Earth. Think about diving underwater, for example. When you dive into a swimming pool, if you keep your arms by your sides, you experience less water resistance and you move faster underwater. However, if you hold your arms out to the sides, water resistance will cause you to move slower through the water. This concept is true for Earth’s rotation as well; something as large as the Three Gorges Dam causes resistance and will slow the speed at which the Earth spins, lengthening the days. 

3.) Yellowstone National Park is a super volcano, and if it erupts it will cover the United States in ash. 

Yellowstone National Park, famous for its canyons, forests, wildlife, and, of course, geysers, sits atop a massive reservoir of hot magma. If the magma chamber were to build in pressure and erupt, the effects would be seen across the country. The park itself would be completely destroyed by lava flows. Surrounding states like Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and Utah would receive three feet of volcanic ash, which would demolish all infrastructure, plants, animals, and people. The rest of the country would receive a few inches of ash, but even that could be capable of destroying farms, blocking roadways, causing serious respiratory problems, damaging sewage, etc. And, not to freak you out, but this super volcano has erupted before and, technically speaking, could erupt again. 

4.) If the Earth were to suddenly stop rotating, we would all slam into the wall east of us at 1000 miles per hour. 

The Earth rotates on its axis at 1000 miles per hour, but because the rotation is constant and does not accelerate or decelerate, humans simply move with the Earth. This means if the Earth were to suddenly stop rotating, inertia would cause us to fly eastward (the direction in which the planet rotates) at 1000 miles per hour. 

5.) Humans and the Tyrannosaurus rex are closer in time than the Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus. 

Dinosaurs existed over a 165-million-year period on Earth. The Stegosaurus existed in the early Jurassic period and lived about 150 million years ago, while the Tyrannosaurus rex was alive later in the Jurassic period and existed about 67 to 65 million years ago. The first humans evolved from apes about five to seven million years ago, meaning the Tyrannosaurus rex was only about 60 million years ahead of humans, while the Stegosaurus was about 85 years ahead of the Tyrannosaurus. 

6.) Everyone on Earth could fit into Andorra. 

As of early 2023, the world’s population is eight billion. If eight billion people stood shoulder to shoulder with each person measuring 1.5 feet across and half a foot from back to front, they could fit into a 179.35052 square mile area. The European country of Andorra is 180 square miles, meaning all of Earth’s population could fit into it, though it may be a little cramped. 

7.) It takes eight minutes and 19 seconds for the sun’s light to reach Earth. 

The light emitted from the sun must travel through the solar system before it reaches our eyes. It takes approximately eight minutes and 19 seconds for that to happen, meaning when you look at the sun, you see it as it was eight minutes ago. 

8.) There is a hole in the earth in Turkmenistan that has been on fire for over 50 years. 

In 1971, a group of Soviet scientists who were drilling for oil fields triggered the collapse of sedimentary rock, creating large craters in the Earth. These craters were filled with natural gas, which posed a danger to the surrounding area. The Soviets decided to light the crater on fire, assuming the natural gas would burn off after a few weeks. 52 years later, the crater is still burning! The depth of the crater and amount of natural gas it contains is still unknown. 

9.) It takes about 42 minutes to travel through the Earth. 

If you were to drill a tunnel from one side of the Earth to the other and then jump in, it would take about 42 minutes of falling to reach the other side. Gravity would accelerate you as you approached the center of the Earth, but as you moved away from it, you would decelerate as gravity pulled you back. Even crazier, the second you reached the other side of the Earth, gravity would pull you back and you would fall toward to other side of the Earth. This endless battle against gravity would end with you stuck in the center of the Earth, unable to move. Sounds fun, right?