Scientists Read Hidden Magnetic Messages From “Hard Drives” From Space

By: | January 30th, 2015

Asteroids act as time capsules, containing vital information about the history of our solar system. Meteorites are part of asteroids that survive falling through the earth’s atmosphere and colliding with the earth’s surface.

Scientists have decoded ancient recordings from meteorites dating back billions of years. These hidden ancient magnetic messages have been providing exciting glimpses of what may have happened to the earth’s magnetic core at the start of our solar system. Their studies will also help scientists gain insight into our own planet’s future death.

The 4.5-billion-year-old meteorites used in the study were collected from Argentina. These meteorites are believed to have originated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

These meteorites contain tiny particles of a magnetic mineral called tetrataenite. These particles are less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair. This mineral is capable of maintaining magnetic records for billions of years.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge managed to decode these ancient recordings using a giant X-ray microscope, called synchrotron. Their recordings offer insights into the magnetic history of the parent asteroid, from when the parent asteroid’s core formed to the moment it froze, killing its magnetic field.

Just like the asteroid, Earth’s core is also freezing, though extremely slowly. The study will provide useful insights into Earth’s own metallic core and magnetic field that may eventually die one day.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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