While the great and infinite outer space is filled with mysteries waiting to be solved, it cannot be overstated that there are many unanswered questions about the planet we inhabit that need investigation.
Case in point, a recent study published in Science Advances claims that the Earth’s core appears to be wrapped in a mysterious structure, which scientists believe to be an ancient ocean floor.
The researchers stitched together the most high-resolution map yet of the underlying geology beneath Earth’s Southern Hemisphere which led them to the ground-breaking (is there a pun here?) discovery.
According to the study, there is a thin, but dense, layer that sits around 2,900 kilometres below the surface where the molten metallic core meets the rocky mantle above it.
“Seismic investigations, such as ours, provide the highest resolution imaging of the interior structure of our planet, and we are finding that this structure is vastly more complicated than once thought,” says geologist Samantha Hansen from the University of Alabama, one of the researchers behind the study.
Now you might be wondering why researchers are spending time studying what lies beneath the Earth’s surface, as opposed to maybe spending their time on, say, researching parallel universes where it won’t be so difficult to land on a skincare routine that works for you.
No? Just me? OK.
But understanding what lies beneath our feet is incredibly vital for studying a lot of things, including volcanic eruptions and the variations in Earth’s magnetic field which protects us from the solar radiation of outer space.
For the study, the researchers used 15 monitoring stations buried in the ice of Antarctica to map seismic waves from earthquakes over three years. These subtle signals were used to analyse the variable layer of material across the region that was being studied.
“Analysing thousands of seismic recordings from Antarctica, our high-definition imaging method found thin anomalous zones of material at the Core Mantle Boundary (CMB) everywhere we probed,” said study co-author Edward Garnero, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, in a press release.
The evidence suggests that at subduction zones, which are zones where one tectonic plate dives beneath another, the ancient ocean floor gets thrust down and drops to the bottom of the mantle. This has been happening for hundreds of millions of years.
Hansen clarified that the Earth’s core is not made of hardened nestled layers. Instead, she said, “Think of it like things stuck in Jell-O, maybe.” She also said that this study is crucial to get a deeper understanding of the Earth’s inner structure as our knowledge is still at a nascent stage.
What do you think of the fascinating discovery?