The Earth's inner core is hotter than experts previously suspected — by a whopping 1,000 degrees. In fact, new research suggests, the center of our planet might be around the same temperature as the sun.
In a study published in Science, a team out of the French research agency CEA simulated the dynamics occurring at the center of the Earth. Our planet's core is comprised of crystalline iron, surrounded by a layer of extremely hot liquid. For decades, experts have sought to determine how that iron was impacted by both immense amounts of pressure and this hot outer layer.
Blasting the samples with lasers
Preliminary estimates, made in the 1990s, suggested that the iron was around 5,000 degrees Celcius. This latest study, however, used more advanced techniques: first, researchers exposed tiny pieces of solid iron to huge amounts of pressure — all while blasting the samples with lasers to amplify their temperature. From there, they beamed X-rays at the samples, using an approach called diffraction, which allowed experts to accurately gauge the temperature at which the iron morphed from solid to liquid under extreme conditions. Extrapolating on that data, they concluded that given the quantity of pressure exerted on the Earth's iron core, its temperature would be 6,000 degrees (give or take 500).
The finding is especially important because the Earth's core is what allows our planet to generate a magnetic field. A better understanding of that field and its constituent elements will help scientists in several fields, including seismology and geophysics, conduct more accurate research and better predict events like earthquakes.