What are some features of the Earth’s core?

The Earth’s outer and inner cores are made of liquid and solid iron.

The Earth has a core made up of two parts: the inner part and the outer part. The outer core is mostly liquid iron and some nickel, while the inner core is mostly solid iron. For a time, the inner part was thought to be a single iron crystal, although more recent theories predict that it is more likely to be made of different parts with irregular features. What scientists know about the core has been derived from seismic wave analysis, as well as models based on accepted physics and chemistry.

The Earth’s outer core is responsible for generating its magnetic field.

The outer core begins at a depth of 1,790 to 3,160 miles (2,890 to 5,150 kilometers), and there is a degree of uncertainty about the precise depth. The inner section begins at a depth of 3,160 to 3,954 miles (5,150 to 6,360 kilometers). Above the outer section is the mantle, the largest portion of Earth’s subterranean regions. Compared to the deeper layers, the mantle is highly viscous and circulates continuously.

It is the outer section responsible for the Earth’s magnetic field. It circulates freely due to the motion caused by the Earth’s rotation, with its dynamics dictated by the Coriolis effect. The effect is similar to the circulation seen in pieces of dough boiling in a pan. This constant circulation gives rise to the Earth’s magnetic field, in a process known as dynamo theory. Although the inner core is too hot to maintain a permanent magnetic field, it likely helps to stabilize the field generated by the outer core.

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The Earth did not always have a solid inner core. Although the pressure there is extremely high, at one point it was so hot that everything was liquid. It has slowly cooled over time and is believed to be between 2 and 4 billion years old, younger than Earth itself, which is about 4.5 billion years old. The inner section was discovered in 1936 by Inge Lehmann.

As the inner core is a solid suspended in a liquid, it can rotate independently of the Earth itself. Most geophysicists believe that it rotates about a third of an additional degree over the surface each year. Therefore, for every 1,000 or more rotations on the Earth’s surface, the inner part rotates 1,001 times.

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