formation of earth

formation of earth

Earth formed at the same time as the other planets. The history of Earth is part of the history of the Solar System.

planets form

Earth came together (accreted) from the cloud of dust and gas known as the solar nebula nearly 4.6 billion years ago, the same time the Sun and the rest of the solar system formed. Gravity caused small bodies of rock and metal orbiting the proto-Sun to smash together to create larger bodies. Over time, the planetoids got larger and larger until they became planets.

molten earth

When Earth first came together it was really hot, hot enough to melt the metal elements that it contained. Earth was so hot for three reasons: Gravitational contraction: As small bodies of rock and metal accreted, the planet grew larger and more massive. Gravity within such an enormous body squeezes the material in its interior so hard that the pressure swells. As Earths internal pressure grew, its temperature also rose. Radioactive decay: Radioactive decay releases heat, and early in the planets history there were many ra- dioactive elements with short half lives. These elements long ago decayed into stable materials, but they were responsible for the release of enormous amounts of heat in the beginning. Bombardment: Ancient impact craters found on the Moon and inner planets indicate that asteroid impacts were common in the early solar system. Earth was struck so much in its first 500 million years that the heat was intense. Very few large objects have struck the planet in the past many hundreds of millions of year.


When Earth was entirely molten, gravity drew denser elements to the center and lighter elements rose to the surface. The separation of Earth into layers based on density is known as differentiation. The densest material moved to the center to create the planets dense metallic core. Materials that are intermediate in density became part of the mantle (Figure 1.1).


first crust

Lighter materials accumulated at the surface of the mantle to become the earliest crust. The first crust was probably basaltic, like the oceanic crust is today. Intense heat from the early core drove rapid and vigorous mantle convection so that crust quickly recycled into the mantle. The recycling of basaltic crust was so effective that no remnants of it are found today.

early solar system materials

There is not much material to let us know about the earliest days of our planet Earth. What there is comes from three sources: (1) zircon crystals, the oldest materials found on Earth, which show that the age of the earliest crust formed at least 4.4 billion years ago; (2) meteorites that date from the beginning of the solar system, to nearly 4.6 billion years ago (Figure 1.2); and (3) lunar rocks, which represent the early days of the Earth-Moon system as far back as 4.5 billion years ago.


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earth formed

-->  a) at the same time as the other planets.

b) about 500 million years later than the sun.

c) at the same time as the moon.

d) all of the above

scientists think that meteorite bombardment was extremely common on the early earth because

a) the outer planets have lots of impact craters.

b) earth has lots of ancient impact craters.

-->  c) the moon has lots of ancient impact craters.

d) all of the above.

due to gravity, planetoids got larger and larger until they became planets.

-->  a) true

b) false

which is not a reason why earth was molten in its early days?

a) gravitational contraction

b) radioactive decay

-->  c) the sun

d) bombardment by asteroids

there was more radioactive decay early in earth history than now because many radioactive elements have long half lives.

a) true

-->  b) false


a) caused earth to have a metal core.

b) took place when earth was molten.

c) allowed lighter elements to rise to the surface.

-->  d) all of these.

earths first crust probably

a) was made of light minerals, like the moons.

-->  b) recycled into the mantle due to vigorous convection.

c) resembled modern continental crust.

d) all of these.

what material helps scientists describe the geologic composition of early earth?

a) zircon crystals

b) meteorites

c) lunar rocks

-->  d) all of the above

the oldest materials geologists found on earth thus far are

-->  a) zircon crystals in ancient rocks.

b) diamonds from kimberlite pipes.

c) exposed gabbro in the oceanic crust.

d) cooled metal fragments from the core.

gravity releases energy when material is squeezed so hard that the pressure swells.

-->  a) true

b) false

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