Scientists probe Earth’s core, make mystifying discovery

Posted on November 25, 2011

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“We can’t sample the core directly, so we have to learn about it through improved laboratory experiments combined with modeling and seismic data,” explains the Carnegie Institution’s Yingwei Fei.

Fei and his colleagues mixed up various alloys of iron and lighter materials and then subjected them to conditions of temperature and pressure similar to those seen in the outer core, then carried out seismic shockwave tests on them. It turned out that whatever the outer core is made of, it isn’t an iron-oxygen mix.

“The research revealed a powerful way to decipher the identity of the light elements in the core. Further research should focus on the potential presence of elements such as silicon in the outer core,” says Fei.

Thus it turns out that actually silicon may be even more important than we at the Reg have always thought. The new discoveries have important implications for our understanding of how the Earth formed, and thus in turn how other planets – perhaps ones orbiting other stars – might form.

The Register

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