Surface to Core

Two girls and a boy looking at a red, yellow and blue cross section of the earth showing the different layers. Behind them is a blue information panel.

Earth is constructed from layers of solid and liquid molten rock.

How it works

Flip over each layer of Earth’s sub-surface (layers are not to scale). Check layer thickness (km) and approximate temperatures (°C).

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Which layer is thickest?
  • Which layer has been explored by humans?

Background

Different layers of the Earth may be solid or liquid. Parts of the mantle are solid, but the rocks are able to move. Hot, molten rock called magma is heated by the Earth’s core. Magma close to the Earth’s surface is cool and dense. It sinks down towards the core and pushes hotter, less dense magma up to start a convection current. Flowing convection currents are powerful enough to shift tectonic plates floating on the Earth’s surface, causing earthquakes and mountain formation.

Finding the science in your world

Geothermal wells are dug around three kilometres deep to harness very hot sub-surface temperatures and heat water so that steam is used to spin turbines and generate electricity.