Scientists have just discovered that the Earth has two inner cores rather than just one as they previously thought. Though, it is hard to blame scientists for this, man has traversed the Solar System as far as Pluto, but has forgotten that the depths of the Earth are unexplored. The reason the ground beneath the cities and streets of human civilization is almost entirely undiscovered is because you have to dig. Traveling through space is much easier because there is nothing there. However, scientists have found a way to penetrate the depths of the Earth to discover something completely astounding.
Using a highly-sophisticated system created to use seismic waves as the source of Earth penetration, the Earth’s “deepest mystery” may not be such an enigmatic notion anymore. Researchers have discovered, contrary to previous findings, the Earth’s inner core has an inner core itself. Scientists stated that this unique discovery will assist them in finding out more about what the Earth was like during its early formation, over four billion years ago.
Xiaodong Song, a University of Illinois professor of geology, stated even though the Earth’s inner core is smaller than the moon, it has some very remarkable characteristics. He added that the discovery will allow scientists to better understand the history of the Earth and the processes of its formation. It also guides their understanding of the action deep inside the Earth.
Scientists were able to peer into the Earth by using seismic waves from earthquakes to do an ultrasonic scan for the Earth’s innards, the same way doctors do on their patients. After the first and largest wave of an earthquake has subsided, the seismic system collects information and readings from the residual reverberations.
Scientists discovered that even though the inner core was once thought to be made of solid iron, it is a more multifaceted structure. Song and his research team found that the second inner core is about half the size of the combined core. He further explained that there is a directional placement of iron crystals in the outer portion of the inner core which is aligned north to south. Moreover, in the second portion of the inner core there is another alignment of iron crystals set east to west.
Song explained that the iron crystals found inside both layers of the inner core are set in separate magnetic directions because they interact with each other in a different manner. He stated scientists may find out how the core has been evolving since the Earth’s inception, from this discovery.
The research team said they were excited with such a novel discovery. This is the first time scientists will be able to “travel” inside the Earth to study an area that was previously impossible to explore. By studying the Earth’s core, more information will be available for predicting core turbulence that may cause earthquakes around the world. Song explained by discovering the Earth’s core has an inner core itself, geologists will continue to find new ways to unearth more inner mysteries.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: DonkeyHotey – Flickr License