Taxonomy term

geodynamo

Magnesium part of Earth's magnetic field engine

Earth’s magnetic field, which arises from convective flows in the planet’s core, known as the geodynamo, has existed for at least 3.4 billion years, meaning that the field-generating processes must have existed for that long as well. But what exactly those processes have looked like throughout Earth’s history, particularly early on, has been poorly understood. In a new study, researchers suggest that magnesium mineral formation in the core is a previously unrecognized but important piece of the puzzle.

26 Apr 2016

Ancient African villages shed light on Earth's magnetic field

Throughout Earth’s history, the planet’s magnetic field has changed polarity hundreds of times, with the magnetic north and south poles swapping positions. These reversals sometimes occur every few thousand years, or after hundreds of thousands of years. The last known magnetic reversal took place nearly 800,000 years ago, leaving many to wonder if we’re overdue for a reversal. Now, research from southern Africa, an understudied region, analyzing magnetized minerals preserved in the charred floors of 1,000-year-old torched huts has shed light on geomagnetic patterns that may indicate — or perhaps even trigger — such a switch. 
 
15 Dec 2015

Ancient meteorites reveal early magnetic fields

Even before the birth of the planets, our solar system was hardly a lonely place. Small rocky bodies, called planetesimals, filled the inner solar system, eventually colliding together to form the planets. Now a new look at a group of ancient meteorites shows that at least some planetesimals generated their own magnetic fields — a feat many scientists thought extremely difficult for such small astronomical bodies. The work also has scientists rethinking how planets formed.

21 Jan 2009

Of molten iron and magnetism

Since 1999, the German satellite CHAMP (CHAllenging Mini-satellite Payload) has swirled around Earth, keeping watch as the planet’s magnetic field waxes and wanes over time. CHAMP’s continuous measurements of Earth’s field have created a finely detailed picture of how the field changes both in space and in time — and by extension, how the movement of the molten iron in Earth’s outer core ebbs and flows. And thanks to these data, researchers report, they can now track even small-scale, rapid fluctuations in the field’s strength around the planet.

28 Aug 2008