Studying the Earth’s inner core reveals the existence of a ‘planet within a planet’

Studying the Earth’s inner core reveals the existence of a ‘planet within a planet’

Salt Lake City – Scientists are trying to go where no one has gone before, to the Earth’s inner core! A team of scientists at the University of Utah has made significant progress in understanding the composition and structure of the planet’s mysterious inner core. They believe that seismic waves from natural earthquakes will help reveal the secrets of this hidden area.

The inner core, which is a solid ball of metal inside our planet, not only affects its magnetic field, but also plays an important role in supporting life on Earth. The study reveals that the inner core is far from being a unified mass, contrary to previous assumptions. Rather, it is more akin to a tapestry made up of different “fabrics”.

Lead author Guanning Pang explains in University release.

By examining seismic data from a global network of detectors initially built to detect nuclear explosions, researchers have gained insights into the Earth’s deepest regions.

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Keith Cooper, a seismologist involved in the study, likens exploration of the inner core to the frontier region. He asserts that photographing the Earth’s interior is a challenge due to its depth and unknown properties. The seismic waves generated by the earthquakes provided valuable information, as they propagated through the planet’s crust, mantle, and core.

The planet formed from asteroids that were kind of accumulating [in space]. They crash into each other and you generate a lot of energy. So the whole planet, when it forms, melts,” Cooper explains. “It’s simply that iron is heavier and you get what we call core formation. Minerals sink in the middle, liquid rocks out, and then basically solidify over time. The reason all minerals fall is because they are heavier than rocks.”

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The team’s analysis of seismic data, collected from 2,455 earthquakes, revealed the structure and behavior of Earth’s inner core. They discovered that the heterogeneity of the inner core gets stronger as one goes deeper into the Earth’s center. This observation provides insight into the growth process of the inner core over time. The inner core had grown rapidly in the past, reached equilibrium, and then continued to grow at a slower rate. This growth process resulted in liquid iron being trapped within the solid core.

The importance of this research extends far beyond expanding our understanding of the Earth’s core. Demonstrates the power of using seismic data to unlock hidden information about our planet. The findings contribute to ongoing efforts to predict seismic activity, improve weather forecasting, and advance our knowledge of Earth’s atmosphere. The research team’s work opens the door to further explorations of Earth’s deep interior, paving the way for future discoveries.

The study has been published in the journal nature.

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