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Origin and Evolution of Earth

Origin:

The earth is believed to have been formed from materials that broke off from the sun about 4.5 billion years ago. It is presumed that initially, earth have been in a completely gaseous state, cooling rapidly and gathering dust and smaller pieces of material, growing in size. Remains of pieces not coalescing initially with the planets remain as large rocky asteroids in orbits. One estimate is that a mass of size of the Earth originally at 6000° K (temperature of the sun's outer layer or photosphere) should have cooled to about 1500°K in about 15,000 years and in about 25,000 years the temperature of the surface would have reached very nearly that of the Earth at present.

At least sixty-six of the ninety-eight elements on Earth have been detected on the sun by means of spectroscopy. The table below presents the most abundant elements on Earth and a comparison of their estimated concentration in the sun.

 

Atomic

%

in

 

Element

Sun's

Photosphere

Atomic

on Earth

%

H

8.76

2.7

He

18.7

(10 -7 )

C

0.003

0.1

N

0.01

0.0001

O

0.03

48.7

Na

0.0003

0.7

Mg

0.02

8.2

Al

0.0002

2.4

Si

0.006

14.3

S

0.006

14.3

K

0.00001

0.1

Ca

0.0003

2.0

Fe

0.0008

17.9

Cu

0.000002

 

1.4

Zn

0.00003

(small)

Atomic percent = % of total # of atoms

 

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Origin and Evolution of Earth

As the Earth cooled, the lighter atoms have moved away from the center more rapidly than the heavier ones, leading to a certain degree of layering. The core is approximately 3,500 km in radius and the mean radius of the Earth is 6,371 km. The mantle, is therefore about 2900 km thick. The temperature of the core is between 2000 and 4000° K. The core consists of molten heavy metals such as iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), and uranium (U), and minerals containing these metals as well as compounds of silicon (Si), aluminum (Al), and magnesium (Mg) with oxyge

silicon (Si), aluminum (Al), and magnesium (Mg) with oxyge n, carbon, and sulfur. In the early

n, carbon, and sulfur.

In the early period, significant amounts of hydrogen and helium--the main constituents of the solar

nebula--remained on the planets. The lack of ability to combine is why we find little helium on Earth while the lighter hydrogen has been captured in the form of water and other compounds.

Evolution:

It is the coincidence of the strong Hydrogen - Oxygen bond and carbon chemistry coupled with

the abundance of these three elements, and the Earth's gravity, distance from the sun (ensuring

a particular temperature range) and speed of rotation (ensuring day and night) that gave us a water planet that could evolve our life forms.

Evidence points to bacteria flourishing about 3.8 billion years ago so this means that life got under way about 700 million years after the Earth was created. These primitive life forms then took the next evolutionary step and started to PHOTOSYNTHESISE (using sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to food energy and oxygen). This was an important turning point in Earth history because the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was being converted to oxygen.

As soon as the oxygen was produced by photosynthesis it was taken out again by reacting with other elements (such as iron).This continued until about 2.1 billion years ago when the concentration of oxygen increased markedly. As oxygen levels built up and then the ozone layer was formed which started to filter out harmful ultraviolet rays. This allowed the evolution of new living organisms.

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Origin and Evolution of Earth