May 26, 2022

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It seems that primordial helium billions of years ago was leaking from the Earth's core

It seems that primordial helium billions of years ago was leaking from the Earth’s core

Primordial ancient helium formed in the wake the great explosion Leaking out from the Earth’s core, scientists report in a new study.

There is no cause for concern. The earth does not deflate like a sad balloon. What that means is that the Earth formed inside the solar nebula – the molecular cloud that gave birth to the Sun, details about the birth of our planet long unresolved.

It also suggests that other primordial gases may seep from Earth’s core into the mantle, which in turn could provide information about the formation of the solar nebula.

On Earth, helium comes in two stable isotopes. The most common is helium-4, with a nucleus containing two protons and two neutrons. Helium-4 arrond represents 99.99986% of all helium on our planet.

The other stable isotope, representing about 0.000137% of Earth’s helium, is helium-3, with two protons and one neutron.

Helium-4 is basically the radioactive decay product of uranium and thorium, made here on Earth. By contrast, helium-3 is mostly primitive, formed in the moments after the Big Bang, but can also be produced by the radioactive decay of tritium.

It’s the isotope of helium-3 that has been detected seeping out of the Earth’s interior, mostly along a mid-ocean volcanic ridge system, giving us a good indication of the rate at which it’s escaping crust.

That rate is about 2,000 grams (4.4 lbs) per year: “enough to fill a balloon the size of your desk,” Geophysicist Peter Olson explains from the University of New Mexico.

“It is one of the wonders of nature, and a guide to the history of the Earth, that there is still a great deal of this isotope in the ground.”

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What is less clear is the source. How much helium-3 might come out of the core, versus how much is in the mantle.

This would tell us about the source of the isotope. When Earth formed, it did so by accumulating material from dust and gas floating around the fledgling sun.

The only way large amounts of helium-3 could exist within the cores of planets is if it formed in a thriving nebula. That is to say, not on its edge, nor as it dissipated and exploded.

Olson and his colleague, geochemist Zachary Sharp of the University of New Mexico, investigated by modeling Earth’s stocks of helium as it evolved. first, during its formation, a process during which the protoplanet accumulated and fused helium; Then after the great effect.

Astronomers believe that this happens when an object is the size of Mars It collided with a very small Earth, causing debris to fly into Earth’s orbit, and eventually form again. the moon.

During this event, which would have remelted the mantle, much of the helium trapped inside the mantle had been lost. However, the core is more resistant to impact, indicating that it could be a fully effective reservoir for holding helium-3.

In fact, this is what the researchers found. Using the current rate at which helium-3 is leaking inside, as well as models of helium’s isotope behavior, Olson and Sharpe found that there is likely to be 10 Tg (10)13 grams) to petgrams (1015th grams) of helium-3 in the core of our planet.

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This indicates that the planet must have formed inside a thriving solar nebula. However, many doubts remain. The probability that all conditions would be met to isolate helium-3 in Earth’s core is rather low — which means there may be fewer isotopes than the team’s work suggests.

However, it is possible that there may also be abundant amounts of primordial hydrogen in our planet’s core, which was captured in the same process in which helium-3 may have accumulated. The researchers say looking for evidence of hydrogen leakage can help validate the findings.

The search was published in Geochemistry, geophysics and geological systems.