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Our Glaciers: Then and Now activity kit helps you see the changes taking place in glaciers around the world. See all our activity kits and classroom activities.
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.

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Cool It! Game

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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 by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF