|Focus||Structure of the Earth|
|Topics||Geologic Time Scale, Plate Tectonics, Types of Rock|
The Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old and its history is divided into time periods based on the events that took place and the forms of life that were dominant during those periods. The largest graduation of time is the eon and each eon is subdivided into eras, eras into periods, periods into epochs, and epochs into ages.
The crust and the rigid lithosphere (upper mantle) is made up of approximately thirty separate plates. These plates more very slowly on the slightly more liquid mantle (asthenosphere) beneath them. This movement has resulted in continental drift which is the gradual movement of land masses across Earth's surface. Continental drift is a very slow process, occurring over hundreds of millions of years.
The Earth's rocks fall into three categories based on how they're formed. Igneous rock (granite, basalt, obsidian) is formed from the hardening of molten rock (lava), sedimentary rock (shale, sandstone, coal) is formed by the gradual despositing and cementing of rock and other debris, and metamorphic rock (marble, slate, quartzite) which is formed when existing rock is altered though pressure, temperature, or chemical processes.