The planet Earth is a moderately sized terrestrial world in the Terran System, orbited by one natural satellite, called Luna (although it is typically referred to simply as “the moon”). It is the third planet of the system, which orbits Sol, a small G-type main sequence star (more commonly referred to as “the sun”). Earth is the only planet in the Terran System and for many light-years distant that is naturally habitable by carbon-based terrestrial life forms and it is the ancestral home of the Terran people. It is the political heart of the Terran Union, as well as a centre of science, education, commerce, and industry, though many heavy industries have migrated off-world in the centuries since interplanetary space travel became practical.
Earth has a varied climate, with ice caps and frozen tundra towards the poles and tropics and deserts towards the equator. The planet’s axial tilt causes seasonal changes, which lead to noticeable variations in temperature and weather in the more temperate regions. Earth is home to an abundance of natural life forms, numbering an estimated 100 million species, including a number of sapient species, the largest individual group of which is humans. Though humans are known to be prevalent throughout the galaxy, there is clear evidence of their evolutionary origins on Earth, which implies that Earth is the ancestral homeworld of all humans. Humans and other sapient species originating from Earth are collectively referred to as Terrans.
The name “Earth” is derived from Old English, where it meant “ground” or “soil”. However, the planet has been known by many names in many languages throughout history. Today, the planet is formally known as “Terra Prime”, though the name “Earth” is still the most commonly used in almost all cases. Other names that are sometimes used include “Terra III”, “Sol III”, or simply “Terra”, which has a similar meaning to “Earth”, albeit in Latin, the ancient language of scholars. It is from this name, Terra, that the names of the Terran System, the Terran people, and the Terran Union are all derived.
Throughout the centuries, there have also been efforts to introduce the name “Gaia” in place of both Earth and Terra; Gaia is the name of a goddess with whom the planet was personified in ancient times and supporters of this name have argued that it would be in keeping with the nomenclature of other planets and celestial bodies in the system to refer to it as such, given that they are each named after ancient gods. Until recently, this name has only ever tended to be used in a poetic sense or by environmentalist groups in consciousness-raising efforts.
However, with the establishment of the Terran Union in 2511, the word “Terran” has come to refer to all people originating from Earth, whether or not they were born or reside there. Some Earth residents have voiced concern over a loss of identity resulting from this more generalised use of the word and, since words like “Earthlings” and “Earthers” are generally used as pejoratives, they have suggested formally renaming Earth as “Gaia” and residents of the planet as “Gaians”. Thus far, however, this movement has received little widespread support.
Throughout most of the history of Earth civilization, the planet has been divided into a large number of independent nation states, which peaked at 200 between the years 2053 and 2222. However, after the Great War between 2168 and 2215, many nations were left in ruins and unable to rebuild on their own. The Treaty of Unification that laid the foundations for the United Nations of Earth in 2222 merged a number of pre-war territories into new, larger nations, or allowed existing larger nations to annex smaller ones that could not survive alone. The result was a reduction in the number of nation states to a mere 57, which all became member states of the new United Nations of Earth.
Earth's nation states remained under the authority of the United Nations of Earth for nearly three centuries before the Terran System Peace Treaty of 2510 laid the foundations for the Terran Union, merging the United Nations of Earth with the Confederate States of Mars and the Jupiter Alliance to form a new, system-wide government.
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