Interior of Earth Current Affairs

Silicon identified as ‘missing element’ in Earth’s core

Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan have claimed that Silicon (Si) is the ‘missing element’ in the Earth’s core. This discovery could help us to better understand how our world formed.

According to them silicon likely makes up a significant proportion of Earth’s core after its major constituents iron and nickel. It was missing element in the deep interiors of our planet that has eluded us for decades.

Key Facts
  • It was found that silicon is a major element and constitutes about 5% of the Earth’s inner core by weight. It could be dissolved into the iron-nickel alloys.
  • For the study, scientists recreated the high temperatures and pressures found in the deep interior of the Earth’s core. They recreated alloys of iron and nickel and mixed them with silicon.
  • They then subjected these alloys to the immense pressures and temperatures that exist in the inner core.
  • Scientists discovered that this mixture matched what was seen in the Earth’s interior with seismic data.

Note: The innermost part of Earth i.e. core is thought to be a solid ball with a radius of about 1,200 kilometres. It is far too deep to investigate directly, so scientists study this region’s make-up using seismic wave. Earth’s core is mainly composed of iron (makes up about 85% of its weight) and nickel (accounts for about 10% of the core).

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Molten Jet Stream discovered deep inside Earth’s core  

Scientists for the first time have discovered the so-called molten jet stream within the Earth’s molten iron core using latest data obtained from three European satellites called Swarm.

The three satellites were launched in 2013 with the goal of studying Earth’s magnetic field.  The latest satellite data that helps create an sharpest ‘x-ray’ view of the planet.

Key Facts 
  • The molten jet stream is an accelerating band of molten iron circling the North Pole. It just like the jet stream in the atmosphere
  • It moves about 40 km per year, currently in a westward direction. This speed is three times faster than normal outer-core speeds and hundreds of thousands of times faster than rate at which Earth’s tectonic plates move.
  • It is located along a boundary between two different regions in the core. This movement is caused when liquid in core flows toward the boundary from both sides and then is squeezed out sideways.
  • Significance: The satellite data has helped clarify Earth’s inner workings and magnetic field. It showed that changes in the magnetic field are actually being caused by the molten jet stream.
  • The discovery can also add light in changing magnetic field of earth and may relate it with switch in direction of the jet stream.

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