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Earth, our home planet, is a beautiful blue and white ball when seen from space. The third planet from the Sun, it is the largest of the inner planets. Earth is the only planet known to support life and to have liquid water at the surface. Earth has a substantial atmosphere and magnetic field, both of which are critical for sustaining life on Earth. Earth is the innermost planet in the solar system with a natural satellite – our Moon. Explore our beautiful home planet – unique in our solar system - through the links in this section.

As temperatures rise and soil moisture decreases, plants are stressed, which can lead to <a href="/earth/climate/crops_withering.html&edu=high&dev=1">crop withering</a>. <a href="/teacher_resources/online_courses/health/events_health.html&edu=high&dev=1">Droughts</a> accompanied by increased temperatures can lead to famine, social and political disruptions. Scientists are  helping with early identification of drought that might trigger food shortages. Watch the NBC Learn video - <a href="/earth/changing_planet/withering_crops_intro.html&edu=high&dev=1">Changing Planet: Withering Crops</a> to find out more.<p><small><em>Image taken by Tomas Castelazo, Creative Commons <a href=&quot;;>Attribution 3.0 Unported</a> license.</em></small></p>This is an artist's conception of the
  Earth and the inner and outer <a
  href="/glossary/radiation_belts.html&edu=high&dev=1">radiation belts</a> that surround it. The Earth's radiation belts are just one part of
  the system called the <a
  href="/earth/Magnetosphere/overview.html&edu=high&dev=1">magnetosphere</a>. The radiation belts of the Earth are made up of <a
  and heavier atomic ions. These particles get trapped in the <a
  href="/earth/Magnetosphere/earth_magnetic_field.html&edu=high&dev=1">magnetic field of the Earth</a>. 
These belts were <a
  href="/earth/Magnetosphere/radiation_belts_discovery.html&edu=high&dev=1">discovered</a> by James Van Allen in 1958, and so they are known as Van Allen
  Belts.<p><small><em>Courtesy of Windows to the Universe</em></small></p>Scientists at the University of Michigan have found that <a href="/earth/polar/cryosphere_permafrost1.html&edu=high&dev=1">permafrost</a> in the <a href="/earth/polar/polar_north.html&edu=high&dev=1">Arctic</a> is extremely sensitive to sunlight.  Exposure to sunlight releases carbon gases trapped in the permafrost, including <a href="/earth/climate/earth_greenhouse.html&edu=high&dev=1">climate-warming</a> <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_dioxide.html&edu=high&dev=1">carbon dioxide</a>, to the <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/overview.html&edu=high&dev=1">atmosphere</a> much faster than previously thought.<p><small><em>George Kling, The University of Michigan</em></small></p><p>The United Nations <a href="" target="_blank">estimated</a> that between 1994-2015, there were 6,873 natural disasters worldwide, which affected 218 million people and claimed 1.35 million lives. </p>
<p>Check out the materials about natural disasters in <a href="/earth/natural_hazards/when_nature_strikes.html&edu=high&dev=1">NBC Learn Videos</a>, and their earth system science connections built up by the related secondary classroom activities.</p><p><small><em>NBC Learn</em></small></p><p>You don't normally see <a href="/space_weather/space_weather.html&edu=high&dev=1">space weather</a> forecasted on the evening news, but it does impact life on <a href="/earth/earth.html&edu=high&dev=1">Earth</a> in many ways. What are the threats posed from all of these natural disasters and how can we work to mitigate those threats beforehand? </p>
<p>Check out the materials about natural disasters in <a href="/earth/natural_hazards/when_nature_strikes.html&edu=high&dev=1">NBC Learn Videos</a>, and their earth system science connections built up by the related secondary classroom activities.</p><p><small><em>NBC Learn</em></small></p>A new study has found that <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/airpollution_intro.html&edu=high&dev=1">pollution</a> from <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/particulates.html&edu=high&dev=1">fine particles</a> in the air - mainly the result of burning coal or <a href="/earth/interior/eruptions.html&edu=high&dev=1">volcanic eruptions</a> - can shade <a href="/earth/Life/cnidarian.html&edu=high&dev=1">corals</a> from sunlight and cool the surrounding water resulting in reduced growth rates.  Coral growth rates in the Caribbean were affected by volcanic aerosol emissions in the early 20th century and by aerosol emissions caused by humans in the later 20th century.  For more information, see the <a href="">press release</a>.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of Toby Hudson (Wikimedia Commons)</em></small></p>

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA