Quantcast
Connect with us

Earth’s ‘magnetic personality’ much older than previously thought

Published

on

Earth’s magnetic field has been a life preserver, protecting against relentless solar winds, streams of charged particles rushing from the Sun, that otherwise could strip away the planet’s atmosphere and water.

“It would be a pretty barren planet without it,” said University of Rochester geophysicist John Tarduno.

ADVERTISEMENT

But there has been debate among scientists about when this vital shield generated by Earth’s liquid iron core formed.

Researchers on Thursday said evidence entombed in tiny crystals retrieved from the outback of western Australia indicates the magnetic field arose at least 4.2 billion years ago, much earlier than previously believed.

Previous research had estimated the field originated about 3.5 billion years ago, roughly a billion years after Earth’s formation. The new study shows Earth was protected by its magnetic field beginning very early in its history.

“The solar wind would have been much more intense 4 billion years ago,” said Tarduno, who led the study published in the journal Science. “Its erosional capability was perhaps 10 times greater than it is today. Without a magnetic shield, you would have this tremendous possibility of eroding the atmosphere and removing water from the planet.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The study focused on a mineral called magnetite contained inside ancient zircon crystals from Australia’s Jack Hills. Magnetite preserves a record of magnetic field strength at the time the mineral was trapped in the zircon.

The researchers examined magnetite in zircon crystals measuring about one-tenth to two-tenths of a millimeter in size and dating from about 3.2 billion to 4.2 billion years ago, and concluded Earth possessed a magnetic field during that entire period.

Without a magnetic field, it may have been difficult for life to emerge on Earth as it has.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Knowing the initiation of the magnetic field has implications for habitability conditions of early Earth,” said University of Rochester geologist Rory Cottrell.

“Finding suitable geologic material to measure deep time is a challenge in and of itself. Zircon grains from Western Australia may be one way to obtain such information about the early magnetic field,” Cottrell added.

Only two of the solar system’s rocky planets, Earth and Mercury, possess a magnetic field. Mars previously had one, but it dissipated about 4 billion years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Mars once had a much denser atmosphere and oceans,” said Tarduno.

The magnetic field’s disappearance exposed Mars to solar winds that may have peeled off the atmosphere and water, leaving the planet desolate.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Saudi doctor yanked from flight after woman freaks out over his ‘see you on the other side’ remark

Published

on

A Muslim doctor was removed from an American Airlines flight out of Florida after a woman misunderstood a remark he made to his wife in a phone call.

Abdulaziz Al Mana, a medical resident at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, was flying in June to Washington, D.C., to visit his wife when he noticed the woman seated next to him acting nervously as the plane taxied onto the runway, reported the Miami New Times.

The woman slipped a note to a flight attendant, and the captain then announced the plane would be turned around for a passenger emergency.

Continue Reading

Facebook

‘Pro-life’ Christians reveal they really don’t care about fetuses — they just want to control women’s bodies: survey

Published

on

According to a new poll, anti-abortion advocates also tend to hold views that are hostile to gender equality. The Guardian’s Jill Filipovic says the results show that the anti-abortion movement is more concerned with controlling women’s bodies than they are about the “sanctity of life.”

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump thinks he’s ‘the chosen one’ for one really preposterous reason

Published

on

Even for a bottomless pit of narcissism like Donald Trump, Wednesday was an exceptional day for self-aggrandizement. Early in the day, Trump tweeted quotes from one of his more sycophantic — and unhinged — followers, Wayne Allyn Root, calling Trump the "King of Israel" and "the second coming of God." Later that day, when speaking to reporters, Trump embraced the prophet identity again, calling himself "the Chosen One," in response to a question about trade dealings with China.

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image