Know what is the In thing now

Earth’s Core is Leaking, Scientists Discover

Nature, Earth's core, Geology, Leakage, Science, Scientists, Earth's core leaking

In a recent discovery, scientists have uncovered a significant presence of helium-3, a rare form of helium, within volcanic rocks on Baffin Island in Canada. This finding provides compelling evidence to support the theory that helium-3 has been seeping from Earth’s core over thousands of years. Published in the journal Nature, this study sheds new light on the cosmic origins of helium and its journey within our planet.

The Mystery of Helium Leakage

Lead study author, Forrest Horton, associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, explained that while helium-4 is abundant in the universe, helium-3 is scarce. This scarcity extends to Earth, where it is rarely found due to its limited production and subsequent loss to space. As Earth’s rocky interior undergoes convective stirring, material rises, cools, and sinks, resulting in the loss of helium during the cooling process.

Detecting elements leaking from Earth’s core offers valuable insights into the planet’s formation and evolution.

Baffin Island’s Scientific Treasures

Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and fifth-largest globally, has become a treasure trove of scientific marvels. In 2003, Solveigh Lass-Evans, working under the guidance of University of Edinburgh scientist Finlay Stuart, made a discovery: volcanic rocks on Baffin Island exhibited a notable helium-3 to helium-4 ratio.

This revelation supported the widely accepted theory that trace amounts of helium-3 leaking from Earth’s core have their origins in the solar nebula, the massive cloud of gas and dust from which our planet emerged. In 2018, Forrest Horton and his team embarked on an expedition to Baffin Island. To their amazement, the Arctic rocks they studied yielded higher measurements of helium-3 and helium-4 compared to previous research.

Within these rocks, lush green olivine gemstones held a secret: each gram contained about 10 million helium-3 atoms. This abundance defied expectations considering the rarity of helium-3 in comparison to helium-4, where only one helium-3 atom exists for every million helium-4 atoms.

The Earth’s Past

The question remains: how did helium-3 become embedded in the rocks of Baffin Island? The answer lies in the origins of the universe itself. During the big bang, hydrogen and helium were released, eventually forming galaxies. Our solar system emerged 4.5 billion years ago from a collapsing dust cloud, giving rise to the sun and planets.

As the Earth formed, helium from the solar nebula likely became trapped in the core. Over time, it leaked out through magma plumes, reaching Baffin Island. By analyzing 60-million-year-old lava samples, the team discovered that while most gases in the magma had escaped during eruption, olivine crystals preserved the deep Earth helium.

The impact of helium-3 leaking from the core has been ongoing, but the exact timeline remains unknown. Fortunately, this noble gas has no negative environmental effects, as it doesn’t chemically react.

Next, the team aims to explore other light elements in the core to uncover their role in Earth’s habitability and evolution. Forrest Horton believes that studying the links between helium-3 and other elements could provide valuable insights and even track elements across the core-mantle boundary. Helium, it seems, holds the key to unraveling Earth’s secrets.

You might also be interested in

Get the word out!