What is the lithosphere

Planet Earth is more complex than it may seem and, one of the most interesting aspects it has, is found inside it and in the different parts that make it up. One of the parts of this structure is the lithosphere, which corresponds to the outer part of the planet and is in direct contact with the atmosphere. However, sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish it from the rest of the lower layers.

What are the parts of the Earth?

Due to gravity and the spherical shape of our planet caused by gravity, the Earth has a layered structure that extends from its center to the outside . These layers are organized in a similar way to the layers that we could find in an onion. However, in the case of the Earth, the way they are organized depends on the density of matter:

  • In this way, in the innermost part, we find the so-called nucleus, which is the center of the Earth and which is formed by a solid sphere of very heavy materials and which remains solid despite the high temperatures to which it is subjected. . This core is made up of the heaviest metals on the planet, such as iron, mercury, gold, lead, and so on. In fact, all the heavy metals that we find on the surface have reached this place through asteroids that hit the surface long after it solidified or, in some cases, from volcanic eruptions that expel part of these heavy materials. from the inside of the planet to the outside.
  • Second from the inside, we find the mantle . This layer is the thickest of all those that form the Earth, and it is characterized by being liquid due to the residual heat that the planet still conserves from the times in which it was formed. This layer is made up of magma that is in motion, and that is responsible for volcanic eruptions throughout the planet.
  • Finally, we find the last layer, called the earth’s crust , which is solid and forms the outer part of the Earth . This is usually divided into two parts, the continental or oceanic crust, depending on the outermost part and where it is found. And the lithosphere, which would be the part of the solid crust and which is common to the entire surface of the planet.

The lithosphere is the outer layer of the planet that is shaped like a rock that covers the entire planet. This is because, being the outermost layers, their direct contact with the atmosphere has allowed it to cool before the rest of planet Earth. In fact, millions of years ago, the entire planet was one great incandescent mass. However, as the exterior cooled, the lithosphere was formed , which ended up forming it and giving it the shape of a layer of surface stone that surrounds the entire planet. Later, due to the effect of climatic agents such as water, the most superficial part of the lithosphere was degrading, giving rise to the superficial crusts that we see today.

In fact, the word lithosphere literally means “stone sphere” , and it perfectly defines its nature. This layer of stone floats on top of the incandescent mantle that constitutes the second inner layer of the Earth and, in fact, it is not a perfect layer. The lithosphere is fractured in different parts, forming plates that drift over the mantle. In fact, these plates, called tectonic plates , are responsible for the existence of earthquakes and volcanoes, since, when the activity inside the mantle moves them, it is when earthquakes or volcanic eruptions are generated.

When it comes to explaining what the lithosphere is to children , the best way to do it is always through visual and practical examples. A simple way to understand it is through a small experiment in which we will need sand, water and flour.

The experiment will consist of creating a model of the interior structure of the Earth . To do this, we will deposit the sand, water, and flour in a transparent container. Thus, due to the density, the sand will fall to the bottom of the container, the water will remain in the middle, and the flour will remain at the top despite being solid. Next, we will have to help ourselves with a spoon to flatten, as best as possible, the flour, so that it gives the appearance of a plain.

The experiment will consist of explaining to the child that the sand would correspond to the core of the planet, while the water and the flour will correspond to the mantle and the lithosphere respectively. Likewise, we can move the container slightly so that the water inside it moves. In this way, the part of the flour that we have flattened with the spoon will experience cracks and even small eruptions of the lower water if the movement is very marked. In this way, we will be able to explain to the children how earthquakes and volcanoes occur when the liquid mantle acts on the solid lithosphere.

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