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Suess invented the word because he felt it was important to try to understand life as a whole rather than singling out particular organisms.

Interstellar Travel and Post-Humans

He believed "biosphere" combines an understanding of the distinct layers that make up the Earth, its atmosphere, and an awareness of all life on our planet and relationships surrounding us. As knowledge of life on Earth evolves, thinking about it as a biosphere helps explain the entire intertwined network of life. Here's an early look at how the Earth warmed, cooled, and built its biosphere over time.

Not too hot Not too cold Where in our Solar System are the conditions just right to support life? Our planet contains just the right amount of energy and water to support a diverse variety of life. Saturn is too cold and gassy. Life-supporting planets usually posses a heavy-metal core surrounded by a rocky mantle. The surface of Uranus is mostly composed of ices: methane, water, and ammonia.

The only energy is lightning, ultraviolet light, and charged particles. Although it's the kind of environment in which scientists believe life began, it's not viable today. Not only does liquid freeze solid on this dwarf planet, but even gases, like methane, will harden when Pluto is at its most distant, 5. Even as the Universe drifts, the Earth's surface is in continual motion — moving a little more than two centimeters per year, floating on a semi-molten bed of lava.

Along the edges where the continental and oceanic crust plates meet, all sorts of crazy things happen. These massive plates scrape past each other sideways.

Our Life...a spectacular journey...on this earth and beyond...

They dive under each other. And in places, they get snagged, causing tremendous pressures to build. When this tension suddenly releases things happen much, much faster than two centimeters per year. But how do we know that the Earth's surface is moving? Some of the early scholars studying the first world maps began to notice some very odd things — for instance, that West Africa seems to fit nicely into Brazil. In the early 20th century, a German meteorologist named Alfred Wegener began assembling evidence suggesting that the continents were once connected.

He found very similar geological strata in West Africa and in Brazil. And during World War I, he wrote a book arguing that at one time all the continents on Earth had been united in a single supercontinent that he called Pangaea. Journey with our Big Historian team on assignment in Iceland, a land of fire and ice, as they walk upon the spot the North American and Eurasian plates collide. While other scientists put forth the theory that the Earth's landmasses had once been connected by land bridges that had since sunk into the ocean, and had always been located where they are today, a few renegade scientists postulated that the Earth once contained one huge supercontinent.

In , Austrian geologist Eduard Suess postulated a supercontinent called Gondwanaland, and American astronomer William Henry Pickering suggested in that the continents broke up when the Moon was separated from the Earth. These theories found near-hostile scorn in the scientific community.

So did a theory of a meteorologist named Alfred Wegener.

He regarded the Earth as fundamentally dynamic. He believed the great continent, eventually named Pangaea, had broken apart due to continental drifting.


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Alfred Wegener was not the first to present continental drifting, but he was the first to put together extensive evidence from several different scientific approaches. Submitting fossil evidence of tropical life on Arctic islands to matching geographical features and formations on separate continents, he argued against transcontinental land bridge claims. He also disputed the theory that mountains formed like wrinkles on the skin of a drying apple, proposing instead that they were created by continents drifting.

But he was unable to explain what force could be immense enough to cause continents to plow through the Earth's crust. Wegener would eventually perish during a ski journey on the Greenland ice cap conducting his scientific research. His ship was using a new sonar technology that emitted underwater sound waves to detect enemy submarines. But, driven by his own scientific curiosity even during wartime, he kept the sonar turned on to read the topography of the ocean bottom.

Using his own data along with newer research from the Atlantic, Hess postulated that the ocean floors were growing through the process he called seafloor spreading. Further research along the Mid-Atlantic Rift in the s confirmed Hess's theory — it was discovered that rocks closest to the rift are newer than those farther away.

The Earth's crust was now shown to be growing and spreading apart along the rift. Which of the following is not a necessary ingredient in planetary formation? Which process best describes how new planets are planets? Why are planets considered to be more complex than stars?

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Thank you for registering. When you are signed in, you can take quizzes, earn badges, and work your way toward becoming a certified Big Historian! By signing up, I agree to the Terms and Conditions. This site is intended for use by users 13 and older. Users under 13 should not create an account. Chapter 1 The Universe. Chapter 3 Life. Chapter 4 Humans. Chapter 2 Our Solar System and Earth.

Chapter at a Glance. Tasty morsels of gas and rock Those chemically rich leftovers orbiting our young Sun were stewing with all the ingredients to form the planets in our Solar System. Activity The lifecycle of our Sun. See how our Sun and stars will evolve Stellar Nursery. Heating Up. Shining Bright. Gradually Increasing. Red Giant. Planetary Nebula.


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White Dwarf. Pyle SSC. How Did the Planets Form? The cosmic creation of our Solar System. Letting the Sun take center stage It took billions of years for the Earth to form and settle into orbit around the Sun. Ptolemy about 85— Claudius Ptolemy's theory extended the cosmological theories of Aristotle.