Shop Windows to the Universe

Hands On Mineral Identification helps you to identify over 14,500 minerals! By M. Darby Dyar, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This animated image shows heat rising in convection currents from the outer boundary of the core and cooling at the surface.

How a Planet Cools Off

Planetary bodies cool off by

  • 1.) motions inside the body, which bring hot material from deep inside, closer to the surface
  • 2.) volcanism, which brings hot material onto the surface
  • 3.) circulation in the atmosphere and oceans, where air and water is carried from the warm regions to the cooler regions
  • 4.) radiation of heat from the surface, the way an oven radiates heat.
If a planet is small, it can cool much faster to space than can a body which is larger.

Earth has had a long a complicated cooling history. An understanding of the Earth's history might begin with the record of geologic time.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Surface Ocean Currents

The water at the ocean surface is moved by powerful wind. The wind is able to move the top 400 meters of the ocean. This moving water is called surface ocean currents. Surface ocean currents form large...more

Plumes

A "mantle plume" is a bubble of material which rises to the surface from deep inside a planet. The plume is the red portion shown in the drawing to the left. Deep inside a planet it is very hot! Even so,...more

Volcanic Ash

Ash is formed as a volcano erupts when rocks made by the volcano blow apart into millions of tiny pieces. The rocks are still very hot, because they just formed from lava. If the hot rocks come into contact...more

Cinder Cones

Cinder cones are simple volcanoes which have a cone shape and are not very big. Compare the size of this volcano to the strato-volcano in this image. They are usually made of piles of lava, not ash. During...more

Flowing Lava

Lava can move in two ways, wide flat lava flows, or through channels which squeeze the lava into a small area. The fastest lava flows move at about 6 mi/hr, an easy jog, but they average between 2/3 and...more

How Do Plates Move?

Plates at our planetís surface move because heat in the Earthís core causes molten rock in the mantle layer to flow. We used to think the Earthís plates just surfed on top of the moving mantle, but now...more

Clues to Plate Movements

Many kinds of surface features are clues to a sliding lithosphere. Two types of features can form when plates move apart. At ocean ridges, the crust splits apart to make room for molten mantle rock. Continental...more

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