When I was a child, I enjoyed laying down on the grass of our backyard to stare up into the deep blue sky. The smell of earth and the soothing breeze with clouds passing high above reminded me just how puny I was. It also gave me the feeling I was flying. When there were no visible clouds, it seemed like I was falling through a giant tunnel into the bottomless heavens. My imagination painted such a vivid picture that I could actually get the sensation of skydiving upwards. And it scared me.
Now that I’m older, my imagination has only intensified. With each new fascinating fact comes yet another childlike wonder. And with the advent of the internet, I can satisfy my curiosity’s deepest pondering. In fact, I often find myself going online and looking up scientific subjects because I absolutely love to discover how things work in our world and beyond. I did exactly that during a conversation I had with my wife the other day. As often happens with me, abstract subjects come to mind and I end up running with my thoughts as fast as they fire. This time, I blurted out to my wife about my amazement with the earth’s atmosphere, its rotation and its orbit.
It may seem silly that I was awestruck with the obvious and would mention it to her, but the obvious isn’t always as conspicuous as it deserves to be, and we take it for granted. Our planet basically thrives within a bubble (atmosphere) formed by gases that are retained by gravity. During the conversation with my wife I did some research to confirm my statements. She had challenged me, and I am glad she did. It resulted in some corrective discovery that yielded more facts I deemed worthy of posting. So here they are:
Our atmosphere alone performs several functions indispensable to our survival, not the least of which are:
- It absorbs and protects us from ultraviolet solar radiation
- It warms earth’s surface through heat retention, reducing temperature extremes between day and night
- It contains oxygen that we need to breathe
- Its mass is about five quintillion (5 × 10 to the 18th power or 5,000,000,000,000,000,000) kg.
- Its boundary with outer space, called the Kármán line, is about 100 km, or 62 miles above the earth’s surface
That is rather impressive, but did you know this terrestrial ball is spinning at over 1,000 mph, yet we don’t even notice it? It’s so smooth and silent it is as if the earth were standing still. We can’t see it or perceive it with our senses! Did you also know that…
- The earth is 25,000 miles in circumference at the equator
- It takes about 24 hours for earth to make a complete rotation at just over 1,000 mph (like a basketball spinning on a finger)
- The earth cycles the sun in a perfect circle with little difference between its closest and furthest point of distance to the sun
- The earth makes its orbit travelling at a whopping 67,000 miles per hour
These factors are huge, and yet harmonize in such a perfect balance that they furnish and protect life. There is just no chance this all could happen by chance. The only thing perhaps more amazing would be for anyone to remain unmoved by such colossal truths.
To put it in a different perspective, just imagine if gravity suddenly stopped. My childhood fears would come true with everyone and everything falling upwards into the sky.
Or what if the world stopped rotating? I mean, if it came to a screeching halt! Everything and everyone would be thrust upwards into the stratosphere like a cowboy off a mega bucking Bronco.
Or what if the earth, cruising at 67,000 miles per hour, broke off its course of orbit around the sun and just catapulted in a straight line into outer space?
The fact that this all holds together so seamlessly is simply and utterly amazing! How then could we take for granted such phenomena that are fundamental to our survival? Perhaps it is because it all happens so perfectly, so gently and gracefully that it draws no attention to itself. Yet at a closer look, we fall in awful adoration before our creator.
Indeed, the Psalmist says and we concur,
“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14 NASB)
In future posts we’ll look at some of the fascinating facts about the human body and its anatomy.