Earth is unique in the solar system for the known capacity to support life. It is only in the last 60 years that we have been able to see what the earth looked like as a planet, revealing our Blue Marble covered by oceans and clouds. Fragile, beautiful and Home to thousands of species of plants, animals and some 6.4 billion humans.
Within Panoramic Earth you will find a growing collection of 360° panoramas showing various parts of the world, from the cities to countryside, mountain tops to caves, rivers to oceans and jungle to desert. These images, provided by both amateur and professional photographers, provide a virtual tour of many popular travel destinations and beautiful places. We will talk about some of these places below, but first let us take a brief look at the earth itself.
EARTH - AN OVERVIEW
The Earth is increasingly being recognized as an unusual planet for many reasons. It is the 5th largest planet in the Solar System, about 12710km (7898 miles) across, bulging slightly at the equator. The Earth is the third from the sun, which it orbits every 365.25 days at a distance that fluctuates between 152,000,000 and 147,100,000 km. The planet rotates every 24 hours as it travels 107,218 km/h (66,622 mph) through space. One of the most remarkable things about the Earth is that it can support organic, carbon based life contributed to by the fact that:
- Earth orbits the sun in the 'Habitable Zone', a relatively narrow band around the Sun that is just the right to maintain liquid water on the surface essential for life.
- Earth has a revolving, liquid metal core, which creates the magnetosphere that in turn protects the atmosphere from being blown away by the solar wind and the surface from excessive radiation.
- The Earth has active tectonic plates, which, while producing earthquakes and volcanoes, play an important part in land formation and atmospheric stability.
- Earth rotates, which allow heat from the sun to be distributed around the planet, and is tilted in it's axis by about 23.4°, resulting in varied seasons but a more stable overall climate.
- The Earth is orbited by a single moon, creating both the tides and helping stabilize it's axial orientation to the Sun. Without the moon the earth would be a much more inhospitable environment, and, some conjecture, probably a lifeless one.
- Earth's atmosphere contains both oxygen and carbon dioxide, both essential for life of animals and plants. The atmosphere, protected from being removed by the solar wind by our magnetosphere, also in turn protects the surface of the Earth from excessive radiation, temperature changes and permits the cycles of water and various gasses. It is only 100km thick.
- The Earth will not be able to support life forever. It is currently thought that in about 500 million years time the environment of the sun will begin to change in ways that will radically change the capacity of the earth to support life, through the evaporation of our liquid oceans. In addition, the effect of the moon continues to slow the rotation of the earth as it moves away from the planet at a rate of 3.82cm per year, which will affect the tides.
These are just some of the facts about the Earth that make the planet just right to support us, as well as creating the wonderful places for us to explore. For more information see the Wikipedia Earth page. An excellent overview of the highest, widest, deepest, largest, smallest and other-est in relation to the mountains, oceans, countries, cities and much more can be found on The List
For now, though, the Earth continues to be a very fortunate place. Humans now occupy virtually every corner of the globe and, for our own convenience, have divided the land masses up into countries of various sizes. The countries featured on Panoramic Earth are: