Essentials of Geology, 3: Chapter 1 Flashcards flashcards |

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One of many millions of small, rocky, and/or metallic objects that orbit the Sun, consisting of fragments of once-larger planetesimals, or chunks of protoplanetary material; most lie in the region between Mars and Jupiter.


The layer of the mantle that lies between 100-150 km and 350 km deep; the asthenosphere is relatively soft and can flow when acted on by force.


A layer of gases that surrounds a planet.


Variation in depth.

big bang

A cataclysmic explosion that scientists suggest represents the formation of the Universe; before this event, all matter and all energy were packed into one volumeless point.


A ball of ice and dust, probably remaining from the formation of the Solar System, that orbits the Sun.


The dense, iron-rich center of the Earth.


The study of the overall structure of the Universe.


The rock that makes up the outermost layer of the Earth.


In the context of planet formation, the process by which a planet separates into a metallic core and a rocky mantle very early in its history.


A vibration caused by the sudden breaking or frictional sliding of rock in the Earth.

Earth System

The global interconnecting web of physical and biological phenomena involving the solid Earth, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere.

expanding Universe theory

The theory that the whole Universe must be expanding because galaxies in every direction seem to be moving away from us.


A fracture on which one body of rock slides past another.


An immense system of hundreds of billions of stars.

gas-giant planet

The outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) that are very large and consist mostly of volatile elements.

geothermal gradient

The rate of change in temperature with depth.


A solid in which atoms are not arranged in an orderly pattern.


Water that resides under the surface of the Earth, mostly in pores or cracks of rock or sediment.


The relatively rigid, non-flowable, outer 100- to 150-km-thick layer of the Earth; constituting the crust and the top part of the mantle.

lower mantle

The deepest section of the mantle, stretching from 670 km down to the core-mantle boundary.

magnetic field

The region affected by the force emanating from a magnet.


The thick layer of rock below the Earthร•s crust and above the core.


Molten (liquid) rock.


A solid composed almost entirely of atoms of metallic elements; it is generally opaque, shiny, smooth, and malleable, and can conduct electricity.


An object that has entered a planetร•s atmosphere and is glowing and evaporating as it streaks to the planetร•s surface.


A piece of rock or metal alloy that fell from space and landed on Earth.


A homogenous, naturally occurring, solid inorganic substance with a definable chemical composition and an internal structure characterized by an orderly arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules in a lattice. Most minerals are inorganic.


The seismic-velocity discontinuity that defines the boundary between the Earthร•s crust and mantle.


A solid object of ice and/or rock and metal that orbits a planet.


A cloud of gas or dust in space.

nebula theory

The concept that planets grow out of rings of gas, dust, and ice surrounding a -born star.

organic chemical

A carbon-containing compound that occurs in living organisms, or that resembles such compounds; it consists of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms along with varying amounts of oxygen, nitrogen, and other chemicals.


A relatively large, spherical object that orbits a star and has cleared its orbit of most debris.


Tiny, solid pieces of rock and metal that collect in a planetary nebula and eventually accumulate to form a planet.


A body that grows by the accumulation of planetesimals but has not yet become big enough to be called a planet.

protoplanetary disk

The flattened cloud of dust, gas, and ice that orbits a nascent star prior to the formation of planets.


A dense body of gas that is collapsing inward because of gravitational forces and that may eventually become a star.

red shift

The phenomenon in which a source of light moving away from you very rapidly shifts to a lower frequency; that is, toward the red end of the spectrum.


A coherent, naturally occurring solid, consisting of an aggregate of minerals or a mass of glass.


An accumulation of loose mineral grains, such as boulders, pebbles, sand, silt, or mud, that are not cemented together.

Solar System

The Sun and all the objects that orbit it (including planets, moons, comets, and asteroids).


A large sphere, composed dominantly of hydrogen and helium, in which fusion reactions are producing energy.

stellar wind

Particles that have been ejected from a star and are shooting through space.


A short-lived, very bright object in space that results from the cataclysmic explosion marking the death of a very large star; the explosion ejects large quantities of matter into space to form nebulae.


Variations in elevation.

transition zone

The middle portion of the mantle, from 400 to 670 km deep, in which there are several jumps in seismic velocity.


The sum of all matter and energy making up the hundreds of billions of known galaxies.

upper mantle

The uppermost section of the mantle, reaching down to a depth of 400 km.


Space that contains very little matter in a given volume (e.g., a region in which air has been removed).


A means of transmitting energy from one location to another; waves can be vibrations that propagate through a material, or undulations of electromagnetic fields that can propagate either through a material or in a vacuum.


The horizontal difference between two adjacent wave troughs or two adjacent crests.

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