The Big Blue Marble
Earth, our home planet, is the only planet in our solar system known to harbor life. All of the things we need to survive are provided under a thin layer of atmosphere that separates us from the uninhabitable void of space. Earth is made up of complex, interactive systems that are often unpredictable. Air, water, land, and life—including humans—combine forces to create a constantly changing world that we are striving to understand.
Oceans at least 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep cover nearly 70 percent of Earth's surface. Fresh water exists in the liquid phase only within a narrow temperature span (32 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit/ 0 to 100 degrees Celsius). This temperature span is especially narrow when contrasted with the full range of temperatures found within the solar system. The presence and distribution of water vapor in the atmosphere is responsible for much of Earth's weather.
Near the surface, an ocean of air that consists of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and 1 percent other ingredients envelops us. This atmosphere affects Earth's long-term climate and short-term local weather; shields us from nearly all harmful radiation coming from the sun; and protects us from meteors as well. Satellites have revealed that the upper atmosphere actually swells by day and contracts by night due to solar activity.
National Geographic []