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Scientists just discovered a hidden layer of molten rock beneath the Earth

Published Feb 11th, 2023 9:01AM EST
Earth's inner core and outer core
Image: rost9 / Adobe

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A group of scientists has discovered a hidden layer of molten rock under the Earth’s surface. The new layer is located around 100 miles beneath the surface and appears to extend below much of the Earth’s outer crust. Learning more about it could help decipher the mysteries of plate tectonics.

A new layer of molten rock under the Earth has scientists scratching their heads right now. that’s because this layer, which is located under most of the planet’s surface, might be the key to resolving one of the longest-standing mysteries about the movements made by tectonic plates.

A new study on the discovery was published in the journal Nature Geoscience. In it, the researchers detail how the hidden layer of soft rock is located at the bottom of the asthenosphere, the Earth’s upper mantle. Details about this area of the Earth have long been a mystery.

ultra-reactive chemicals found in Earth's atmopshereImage source: studio023 / Adobe

However, the discovery of this new layer of Earth could shed some much-needed light. Despite seemingly floating on this layer of molten rock, tectonic plates do not appear actually to be tied to this molten layer in any way, the researchers write in the study.

That means that the newly discovered layer under the Earth is not playing a substantial part in how the tectonic plates that float above the asthenosphere move. This news will help researchers refine the current models of Earth’s moving parts and better understand how they move.

However, the exact relationship between tectonic plates and this newly discovered layer of Earth is still a bit of a puzzle. Scientists are still unsure if unmelted chunks in the molten rock could somehow interfere with the glide paths that the tectonic plates rely on.

Unfortunately, to learn more, scientists will need to dig deeper into our planet’s surface to determine if that’s the case or not. In the meantime, scientists may learn more about the Earth’s inner core thanks to changes in how it spins.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.