It is kind of a planet within a planet.
There is a kind of planet within a planet, on our planet, if that makes sense. It is our planet’s core. And as it turns out, it is pretty weird. Our planet’s solid metal heart is a complex composition, likened to a diverse tapestry of fabrics, rather than a uniform entity, according to a groundbreaking seismic study. As it turns out, Earth’s inner core is not a perfect sphere at all.
Earth’s Inner Core is Not a Perfect Sphere
Unveiling the mysteries behind the formation, growth, and evolution of Earth’s inner core is the mission for a group of seismologists from the University of Utah. While the inner core’s volume may seem insignificant, just under 1% of Earth’s total, its influence is profound, integral to Earth’s magnetic field formation.
Contrary to previous scientific assumptions, Earth’s inner core is no homogenous mass. Instead, it resembles a patchwork of varied “fabric,” revealed Guanning Pang, a former Ph.D. student at the University’s Department of Geology and Geophysics.
Tackling the Deep Unknown
“The aim of our research was to peek inside the inner core, the most enigmatic and challenging part to image,” explained U Seismologist Keith Koper. They utilized a special dataset from a global network of seismic arrays installed to detect nuclear blasts, a resource established by the United Nations in 1996.
Examining the deepest parts of Earth relies heavily on seismic waves from earthquakes. These waves traverse the planet’s crust, mantle, and core, enabling a peek into the largely inaccessible interior of the planet.
An Intricate Core with Far-Reaching Impact
Earth’s core, primarily composed of iron and some nickel, is divided into a liquid outer core enveloping a solid inner core. The circulation within the liquid outer core generates the protective field of magnetic energy that safeguards our planet. Without this solid core, the field would diminish, leaving the surface vulnerable to radiation and solar winds.
The study’s team scrutinized seismic data collected by 20 seismometer arrays globally, including two in Antarctica. The selected earthquakes, all of magnitude 5.7 or above, provided valuable data to map the inner core’s structure.
The Echo from the Center of the Earth
The seismic waves’ subtle echoes that rebound from the inner core were instrumental in shaping our understanding of the structure. The information suggested the irregularities grow stronger as you approach the center of Earth.
Scientists from the University of Southern California, Université de Nantes in France, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory collaborated on the study, which the National Science Foundation supported.
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