One way to understand our unique planet is to think of Earth as a giant sphere made up of layers, or spheres within spheres. Scientists describe three major layers, as Figure 22-1 shows. The geosphere is Earth's rock interior that extends from the molten center of the planet's core to the solid surface of its crust. Above the geosphere lies the hydrosphere, the portion of Earth that is water, including all oceans, lakes, and rivers. Above the hydrosphere and geosphere floats the atmosphere, the mixture of gases that surrounds Earth. Living organisms are known to exist in parts of each of Earth's three main spheres. Thus, scientists also refer to the biosphere, meaning the part of Earth where life exists.

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