Molten Iron Jet Stream Discovered In Earth’s Core

Posted: Dec 20 2016, 4:43am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

Molten Iron Jet Stream Discovered in Earth’s Core
A jet stream within the Earth’s molten iron core has been discovered by scientists using the latest satellite data that helps create an ‘x-ray’ view of the planet. Credit: European Space Agency
  • Man-Made Satellites detect a Jet Stream in the Core of the Planet Earth
 

Man-made satellites have detected a jet stream in the outer core of the planet earth.

A jet stream has been found within the earth’s core. The core consists of molten iron. The satellite data helped create an x-ray of the earth. These satellites belonged to the ESA and have been termed Swarm satellites.

They provided some pretty crystal clear images of the earth’s interior. Not only has the jet stream been viewed on a consistent basis but now scientists also know why it is there in the first place. 

This jet stream apparently resembles the jet stream phenomenon found in the atmosphere. It is basically a fast moving belt of molten iron going round the North Pole.

Lead researcher Dr Phil Livermore, from the University of Leeds, said: “The European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites are providing our sharpest x-ray image yet of the core. We’ve not only seen this jet stream clearly for the first time, but we understand why it’s there.

“We can explain it as an accelerating band of molten iron circling the North Pole, like the jet stream in the atmosphere,” said Dr Livermore, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds.

The core is located beneath 3000 kilometers of rock. There was a time when scientists gauged the core via measuring the earth’s magnetic field. This was in fact the only indirect method available to measure the core.

Past research had pointed out that the magnetic field showed iron in the outer core moving at a faster rate in the North. This was for the most part beneath Siberia and Alaska.    

However, novel information from the Swarm satellites reveals that the jet stream is responsible for all this and that it is moving at a rate of more than 40 km per year.

This is thrice the rate of velocity of outer core matter and at least hundreds and thousands of times faster than the speed at which the earth’s tectonics plates move.

These tectonic plates are the reason behind earthquakes. The ESA’s Swarm satellites consists of three missions that make many complex measurements.

They provide lucid data on the matter. The position of the jet stream apparently is in alignment with the boundary between two areas in the core.  

As for the jet, it is probably caused by liquid in the core moving towards this boundary from both sides. Thus it is literally pushed outwards in a sideways manner.

A force is needed to shift the liquid towards the boundary. This could either come from the sheer power of buoyancy or it could come from changes in the magnetic field inside the core. More shocking facts lie in the cards though.

The jet stream could possibly change direction in the future. At this stage in our knowledge base, we cannot thus say what we will find out next about our planet’s geology. We are indeed living in exhilarating times. 

Co-author Professor Rainer Hollerbach, from the School of Mathematics at Leeds, said: “Of course, you need a force to move the liquid towards the boundary. This could be provided by buoyancy, or perhaps more likely from changes in the magnetic field within the core.”

Rune Floberghagen, ESA’s Swarm mission manager, said: “Further surprises are likely. The magnetic field is forever changing, and this could even make the jet stream switch direction.

“This feature is one of the first deep-Earth discoveries made possible by Swarm. With the unprecedented resolution now possible, it’s a very exciting time – we simply don’t know what we’ll discover next about our planet.”

Co-author Dr Chris Finlay, from the Technical University of Denmark said: “We know more about the Sun than the Earth’s core. The discovery of this jet is an exciting step in learning more about our planet’s inner workings.”

The findings of this research appear in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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