Dr. Alexander Goncharov, from the Carnegie Institute of Science, and his team got closer to unveil one of the biggest mysteries of our planet. The researchers carried out a study to find out what is keeping Earth’s magnetic field running. They recreated extreme conditions found in the center of our planet and discovered what powered our invisible protector. The results were published in Nature’s journal of science in June 2016.

Three layers form the Earth: core, mantle, and crust. The outer core is formed by liquid iron alloy which movement causes the magnetic field. Credit: Run Run

The invisible shield

Life is very frail, the conditions that sustain it are unique, and there are too many threats: one example is solar flares. Also known as solar winds, these stream of charged particles are emanated now and then by the Sun. Even though we are very far away from the Sun, these winds still get here with sufficient power to scorch every living thing on the surface of our planet.

Several kinds of radiation that could alter life as we know it cruises the universe, and there is the meteorite problem. Scientists say that at least 18,000 space rocks are launched into our planet, and even though they are little, they could be a real threat in highly populated areas. So what protects us besides the atmosphere? Well, Earth’s magnetic field.

Also called geomagnetic field, it protect us from solar winds and many other kinds of radiation. It originates from the center of the Earth and makes life possible. Scientists know that a process called “geodynamo” generates it. Three layers form the Earth: core, mantle, and crust. The outer core is formed by liquid iron alloy which movement causes the magnetic field, but they had no idea what started it or even what currently sustains it, until now.

“We sensed a pressing need for direct thermal conductivity measurements of core materials under conditions relevant to the core,” Dr. Goncharov said. “Because, of course, it is impossible for us to reach anywhere close to Earth’s core and take samples for ourselves.”

Dr. Alexander Goncharov and his team wanted to shed some light on this matter. They used a laser-heated diamond anvil to mimic the conditions existing in the irony center of our planet. The objective? To see how iron conducts heat on such extreme conditions. The experiment was a success as the research team managed to recreate conditions in the cores of planets such as Mercury and Earth. According to them, the conditions to sustain our invisible protector existed in our world since the early stages of Earth’s history.

Back t, when our planet was forming, all the iron and the rest of heavy elements sunk into the earth’s center. The study explains what keeps the field running, but specialists still don’t know what started it.

If experts could pinpoint its origin, they could try to emulate it and reproduce it. It could open the door for a whole new kind of technology based on magnetic fields.

Source: Carnegie Science