Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. This is enabled by Earth being a water world, the only one in the Solar System sustaining liquid surface water. Almost all of Earth's water is contained in its global ocean, covering 70.8% of Earth's crust. The remaining 29.2% of Earth's crust is land, most of which is located in the form of continental landmasses within one hemisphere, Earth's land hemisphere. Most of Earth's land is somewhat humid and covered by vegetable, while large sheets of ice at Earth's polar deserts retain more water than Earth's groundwater, lakes, rivers and atmospheric water combined. Earth's crust consists of slowly moving tectonic plates, which interact to produce mountain ranges, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Earth has a liquid outer core that generates a magnetosphere capable of deflecting most of the destructive solar winds and cosmic radiation.

Earth has a dynamic atmosphere, which sustains Earth's surface conditions and protects it from most meteoroids and UV-light at entry. It has a composition of primarily nitrogen and oxygen. Water vapor is widely present in the atmosphere, forming clouds that cover most of the planet. The water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas and, together with other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), creates the conditions for both liquid surface water and water vapor to persist via the capturing of energy from the Sun's light. This process maintains the current average surface temperature of 14.76 °C, at which water is liquid under atmospheric pressure. Differences in the amount of captured energy between geographic regions (as with the equatorial region receiving more sunlight than the polar regions) drive atmospheric and ocean currents, producing a global climate system with different climate regions, and a range of weather phenomena such as precipitation, allowing components such as nitrogen to cycle.

Earth is rounded into an ellipsoid with a circumference of about 40,000 km. It is the densest planet in the Solar System. Of the four rocky planets, it is the largest and most massive. Earth is about eight light-minutes away from the Sun and orbits it, taking a year (about 365.25 days) to complete one revolution. Earth rotates around its own axis in slightly less than a day (in about 23 hours and 56 minutes). Earth's axis of rotation is tilted with respect to the perpendicular to its orbital plane around the Sun, producing seasons. Earth is orbited by one permanent natural satellite, the Moon, which orbits Earth at 384,400 km (1.28 light seconds) and is roughly a quarter as wide as Earth. Through tidal locking, the Moon always faces Earth with the same side, which causes tides, stabilizes Earth's axis, and gradually slows its rotation.

Earth, like most other bodies in the Solar System, formed 4.5 billion years ago from gas in the early Solar System. During the first billion years of Earth's history, the ocean formed and then life developed within it. Life spread globally and has been altering Earth's atmosphere and surface, leading to the Great Oxidation Event two billion years ago. Humans emerged 300,000 years ago in Africa and have spread across every continent on Earth with the exception of Antarctica.

Magnetic field

The main part of Earth's magnetic field is generated in the core, the site of a dynamo process that converts the kinetic energy of thermally and compositionally driven convection into electrical (see electricity) and magnetic field energy. The field extends outwards from the core, through the mantle, and up to Earth's surface, where it is, approximately, a dipole. The poles of the dipole are located close to Earth's geographic poles. At the equator of the magnetic field, the magnetic-field strength at the surface is 3.05×10−5 T, with a magnetic dipole moment of 7.79×1022 Am2 at epoch 2000, decreasing nearly 6% per century (although it still remains stronger than its long time average). The convection movements in the core are chaotic; the magnetic poles drift and periodically change alignment. This causes secular variation of the main field and field reversals at irregular intervals averaging a few times every million years. The most recent reversal occurred approximately 700,000 years ago.

The extent of Earth's magnetic field in space defines the magnetosphere. Ions and electrons of the solar wind are deflected by the magnetosphere; solar wind pressure compresses the dayside of the magnetosphere, to about 10 Earth radii, and extends the nightside magnetosphere into a long tail.Because the velocity of the solar wind is greater than the speed at which waves propagate through the solar wind, a supersonic bow shock precedes the dayside magnetosphere within the solar wind. Charged particles are contained within the magnetosphere; the plasmasphere is defined by low-energy particles that essentially follow magnetic field lines as Earth rotates. The ring current is defined by medium-energy particles that drift relative to the geomagnetic field, but with paths that are still dominated by the magnetic field, and the Van Allen radiation belts are formed by high-energy particles whose motion is essentially random, but contained in the magnetosphere.

During magnetic storms and substorms, charged particles can be deflected from the outer magnetosphere and especially the magnetotail, directed along field lines into Earth's ionosphere, where atmospheric atoms can be excited and ionized, causing the aurora.