Each layer of the planet Earth is made up of several distinct layers. The crust is the top layer and has a thickness of 30 km (18.6 mi). There are four layers below the crust. These are the upper, lower, outer, and inner core. There are many surprising properties in the Earth’s inner core.
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Facts about the Inner Core
1. Edmond Halley, the famed comet-maker, proposed in 1692 that the Earth was hollow. He pictured two concentric shells and a core roughly the same size as Mercury, floating in a luminous liquid below the outer crust.
2. Helloooo down there! Halley imagined that these shells might have been inhabited. Jules Verne explored this idea in his classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.
3. Halley was correct about the core of Earth’s size. The iron-rich orb at Earth’s core is more than 4,000 miles in diameter — larger than Mercury — and closer to our feet that L.A. to New York.
4. Its outer portion is molten. Its inner portion is a solid chunk of metal that spins independently from the rest of the planet.
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5. The inner core is where earthquake waves travel faster northward than eastward. One theory is that the inner core is made up of metallic crystals aligned with Earth’s poles. The waves travel faster when they move with the grain.
6. The pressure is three times higher than that on the surface, and the inner core is almost as hot as the sun’s surface.
7. The magnetic field created by Earth’s liquid and solid cores is what keeps the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles from the sun at 250 miles per second, from destroying our atmosphere.
8. Earth’s mini-me: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin are trying to model Earth’s field using 500,000-degree plasma. They have created a 10-foot-wide aluminium sphere with solid walls to hold the plasma. The inner core should be able to replicate the flow of currents.
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9. Kola Superdeep Borehole, near Murmansk in Russia, is the deepest point ever reached by human technology. It’s the result of an inner-space race during Cold War.
10. The cracks and cavities of the gold mines, 2.4 miles below Earth’s surface, are home to bacteria. They live off hydrogen and sulfates, and radiation is their primary energy source. Yum.
11. James Holden, a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, speculates that the planet’s deep biomass might weigh as much as everything else on the surface.
12. NASA scientists believe that life on Mars could be hiding in the same deep, hot biosphere as it is today.
13. Even in the core, change is inevitable. Geoscientists from Johns Hopkins University have found that the core’s eastern and western halves are growing and melting in turn, based on paleomagnetic data.
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14. This may explain why the axis of Earth’s magnetic field tilts to the west while it is tilted to its east a few geologic blinks back.
15. According to Johns Hopkins researchers, the axis is anchored in the expanding half. This could explain the strange history of magnetic field reverses on our planet, where the north and south poles have swapped places.
16. Pandemonium at the boundary of the molten core & the overlying mantle might explain these magnetic field quirks.
17. Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist, speculates that oxygen and silicon are being pulled out of the inner core. They then rise to the core-mantle border, settling into hot, slushy dunes. One dune might occasionally violently fall into the mantle, causing convection to increase and disrupting the magnetic field.
18. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Slowly, plate tectonics churns crust into the interior. This is where any plant or animal life can be trapped and cooked. Organic material eventually returns to the surface in lava and volcanic gas, including atmospheric-warming carbon dioxide.
19. This cycle and the magnetic field created by the core keep our planet at the ideal temperature for life.
20. Venus is a beautiful example of this, with its 900 degrees Fahrenheit days & nights. We could have been there if not for the restless inners core of our planet.