Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
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

A planetary body, whether the body is a planet or a moon, has to cool off. The warmth contained 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 off.

The heat of a body comes from

  • 1.) leftover heat from when it formed
  • 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 Earth-like planets have internal heat due to (2) above, and this source of energy causes continental drift on the surface. The giant planets have internal heat due to (1) above, and this source of energy causes the motions of the atmosphere.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books on science education!

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

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

Tidal Forces

The force of gravity caused by an object gets weaker as you move farther away from that object. In this picture, the Earth is pulling on the Moon, and the Moon is pulling on the Earth. The Moon pulls more...more

The forming Aurora

This picture shows the flowing of particles into and out of the auroral zone, as Field-Aligned currents (FAC's) take at short-cut through the atmosphere. Some of the particles entering the auroral zone...more

Plate Tectonics

The main force that shapes our planet's surface over long amounts of time is the movement of Earth's outer layer by the process of plate tectonics. This picture shows how the rigid outer layer of the Earth,...more

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

Unlike the Earth, which has a protective shield around it called the magnetosphere, the surface of the moon is not protected from the solar wind. This picture shows the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth,...more

Evolution of Callisto

The insides of most of the moons and planets separated while they were forming out of the primitive solar nebula. Measurements by the Galileo spacecraft have been shown that Callisto is the same inside...more

Volcanic Ash

Ash is made of millions of tiny fragments of rock and glass formed during a volcanic eruption. Volcanic ash particles are less than 2 mm in size and can be much smaller. Volcanic ash forms in several ways...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