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Earth's magnetic field protects and makes our planet habitable by stopping harmful high-energy particles from space, including from the Sun. The source of this magnetic field is the core at the centre of our planet.
But the core is very difficult to study, partly because it starts at a depth of about 2,900 kilometres, making it too deep to sample and directly investigate.
Part - Research - Team - Way - Information
Yet we are part of a research team that found a way to get information about Earth's core, with details published recently in Geochemical Perspective Letters.
The core is the hottest part of our planet with the outer core reaching temperatures of more than 5,000℃. This has to affect the overlying mantle and it is estimated that 50% of volcanic heat comes from the core.
Activity - Planet - Cooling - Mechanism - Certain
Volcanic activity is the planet's main cooling mechanism. Certain volcanism, such as that which is still forming volcanic islands of Hawaii and Iceland, might be linked to the core by mantle plumes that transfer heat from the core to Earth's surface.
Yet whether there is any exchange of physical material between the core and the mantle has been a subject of debate for decades.
Findings - Material - Base - Plumes - Core
Our findings suggest some core material does transfer into the base of these mantle plumes, and the core has been leaking this material for the past 2.5 billion years.
We discovered this by looking at very small variations in the ratio of isotopes of the element tungsten (isotopes are basically versions of the same element that just contain different numbers of neutrons).
Earth - Core - Tracers - Core - Material
To study Earth's core, we need to search for chemical tracers of core material in volcanic rocks derived from the deep mantle.
We know the core has a very distinct chemistry, dominated by iron and nickel together with elements such as tungsten, platinum and gold that dissolve in iron-nickel alloy. Therefore, the metal alloy-loving elements...
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