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Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
The periodic table of the elements with metallic elements colored in green, nonmetallic in orange and metalloids in blue.
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L.Gardiner/Windows to the Universe

Chemistry

Chemistry is the study of matter, energy, and their interactions. Chemists study the composition of substances, their properties, and how they react with each other under varying circumstances. Indeed, chemists work to develop new substances, with properties that help us solve problems faced by society today.

Because chemistry deals with the fundamental structure of matter (such as the structure of the atom, electrons, protons, and neutrons), it overlaps with physics. Because chemistry is involved in the biology of life (for instance, in photosynthesis), it overlaps with biology. Similarly, because geology involves study of the matter the Earth and other bodies in the solar system are made of, geology involves chemistry.

Geochemistry is the study the properties of Earth materials, working to understand how they vary under different pressures and temperatures. Geochemists study the abundances of the chemical elements in minerals, soils, rocks, and ores, as well as in the Earth's hydrosphere and atmosphere. They study how these elements move and change due to processes in the Earth system.

Biogeochemistry is the study of the chemical composition of substances in the natural environment, and how they change based on chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes in the Earth system. Biogeochemists study cycles in the Earth system, such as the carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle, to understand the role of these substances in the Earth system.

The origin of the word "chemistry" is not clear. It appears to have evolved from the word "alchemy", which may come from the Arabic word "al-kimia". Alchemy was the practice of trying to change common metals into gold, and attempts to develop other magical compounds that would allow immortality or ultimate wisdom.

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Photosynthesis

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The Periodic Table of the Elements

Everything you see around you is made of tiny particles called atoms. There are many different types of atoms, each with a special combination of protons , neutrons and electrons . These different types...more

What Is a Mineral?

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Nitric Acid - HNO3

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Sulfuric Acid - H2SO4

Sulfuric acid is a very common type of acid. Acid rain has sulfuric acid in it. Acid rain harms plants, fish, and other living things. A type of air pollution causes acid rain. When people burn fossil...more

Methane - CH4

Methane is a kind of gas. There is a small amount of methane in the air you breathe. A methane molecule has carbon and hydrogen atoms in it. Methane is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps make Earth...more

Ammonia - NH3

Ammonia is a kind of gas. Ammonia molecules (NH3) have hydrogen and nitrogen atoms in them. The air you breathe has a tiny bit of ammonia in it. When plants and animals die and decay, they give off ammonia....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