Earth’s original magnetic field was formed some 4.2 billion years ago, was much more powerful than previously estimated, and may have been driven by a mechanism dissimilar to the one that protects our planet today, groundbreaking new research from the University of Rochester suggests. Studying miniscule grains of magnetite found inside tiny zircon crystals ingrained in rocks from the Jack Hills, western Australia using a powerful new electron microscope, researchers found evidence that an early magnetosphere existed some 750 million years before it was previously thought to have formed. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, posits that the magnetite found in the zircon crystals dates back a whopping 4.2 billion years. These magnetized particles, formed during the appropriately named ‘Hadean period’ (a period of geological history during which the planet was an unlivable hellscape) were shown to contain locked-in clues about the direction and intensity of the magnetic field which existed at the time. According to the study, this early magnetic field was likely powered by a different, magnesium oxide-based mechanism, but was exhausted some 565 million years ago, leading to the formation of the inner core and the creation of the churning of… Read full this story
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