Science

Earth's Core Is As Hot As the Sun

By Nina Sen , Apr 28, 2013 09:13 AM EDT
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The Earth's core is about as hot as the temperature on the Sun's surface, says a new study.

Scientists at France's CEA research agency revealed their new findings Friday in a study published in the journal Science. The Earth consists of the crust, a solid upper mantle (solid), the semi-solid mantle, the outer core made of molten iron-nickel, and the inner core of crystalline solid iron-nickel.

According to the research, the Earth's core is 6,000 Celcius which is on par with the temperature on the sun. Preliminary estimates, made in the 1990s, suggested that the iron in the core was around 5,000 degrees Celcius. That's 1,000 degrees hotter than previously thought.

Scientists determined the temperature by subjecting a sample of crystalline iron to a device called a diamond anvil cell. The device holds the iron between two precision-machined synthetic diamonds.

To simulate the immense amount of pressure and heat at the core, scientists used a laser beam. Then, they used X-ray beams to carry out "diffraction" pattern by bouncing X-rays off the nuclei in the iron atoms and watching how the pattern unfolded as the iron changed from solid to liquid.

"The accurate determination of the melting temperature of iron provides an important constraint on the core temperature, which is essential to understanding how the dynamic Earth works, including its heat budget, generation of its magnetic field, and the thermal evolution of the planet. high heat flux at the core-mantle boundary with a possible partial melting of the mantle," wrote researcher Yingwei Fei in the journal Science.

The Earth's core is what allows our planet to generate a magnetic field. The findings could allows scientists to have a better understanding of the magnetic field and apply it to several subjects including geophysics, seismology, geodynamics, and other Earth-oriented scientific disciplines.

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