The Reporter
Issue 493, 27 October 2003
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Leeds research goes to the centre ...


David GubbinsLeeds scientists are journeying to the centre of the Earth, in the biggest international collaboration to study the Earth’s core. Their findings will help us understand other planets in the solar system, tell us more about how the Earth was formed, and how it’s likely to change in the future.

Lead researcher, Professor David Gubbins said: “Everything about our planet is driven by the fact the Earth is cooling very slowly: ten degrees every thousand million years. We know that movements in the liquid outer core create our magnetic field, which protects the Earth from cosmic rays. But the core is the only bit of the Earth we still don’t fully understand. Nor do we know why some planets in our solar system have no magnetic fields while others do.”

The scientists, obviously, can’t actually travel to the place they’re studying but seismic waves will allow them to ‘see’ images of the Earth’s core. They will be testing different possible chemical compositions of the core, looking at the properties of such mixes and seeing if this fits with data on the magnetic field provided by satellites. The team aim to create a computer model of the ‘dynamo’ in the Earth’s core which is powering its magnetic field.

Professor Gubbins said: “Einstein once said that finding out how the Earth’s magnetic field came about was the most difficult problem in mathematical physics. We know that Venus and Mars have no magnetic field, unlike other planets in the solar system. Yet Venus does have a liquid core. We hope our research will help explain how this is possible.”

The University of Leeds is co-ordinating the NERC funded consortium of UCL and the Universities of Exeter and Bristol, working with international collaborators, the University of Hong Kong, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography and Los Alamos National Laboratory.


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