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The Winter 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist includes a variety of educational resources, ranging from astronomy to glaciers. Check out the other publications and classroom materials in our online store.
This is an image of the ocean floor of the Earth, showing mountain ranges, subduction trenches, tectonic plates, and mid-ocean ridges.
Click on image for full size
Image from: U.S. Geological Survey

Cooling History, part 1

A planetary body, whether the body is a planet or a moon, cools slowly by radiating energy away into space. The warmth remaining inside a body controls what sort of surface activity, atmospheric activity, and interior activity which the body has. As planetary bodies cool slowly, heat diminishes, and the activities diminish to nothing. Examination of a body for various kinds of activities tells scientists what stage a body is in it's history of cooling.

The heat of a body comes from

  • 1.) leftover heat from it's formation
  • 2.) radioactive material found in the body
  • 3.) outside forces on the body as a whole, such as those which cause tides
  • 4.) heat brought to the atmosphere by energetic particles in space
  • 5.) warming by the sun
The terrestrial planets have internal heat due to (2) above, and this source of energy drives continental drift on the surface. The giant planets have internal heat due to (1) above, and this source of energy drives the motions of the atmosphere.


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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

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Tidal Forces

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The forming Aurora

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Plate Tectonics

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Mid-Ocean Spreading Ridge

As the Earth cools, hot material from the deep interior rises to the surface. Hot material is depicted in red in this drawing, under an ocean shown in blue green. The hotter material elevates the nearby...more

The Moon's Magnetosphere

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Evolution of Callisto

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The History of Martian Volcanism

During its earliest history, Mars was bombarded with *planetismals*. The impacts of these asteroid-like boulders caused the surface regions of Mars to become warm enough for continents to drift across...more

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