There’s A Massive Iron Snake In The Middle Of The Earth

That’s not hyperbole. Announced at the recent annual gathering of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, a huge iron jet stream is in the planet’s outer core.

Travelling at about 50 kilometers per year, the serpent is currently in the Northern Hemisphere and moving west underneath Alaska and Siberia. It is most likely being driven by the planet’s magnetic field, as well as altering it.

Dr Chris Finlay, a senior scientist at the Technical University of Denmark, told BBC News: “This a very dense liquid metal, and it takes a huge amount of energy to move this thing around.” As far as they can tell, this so-called jet stream probably has “the fastest motion we have anywhere within the solid Earth.”

Right now, it is roughly 420 kilometers wide and about as long as half the planet’s circumference. So, not small. It was discovered by a triplet of satellites in the Swarm program, and between 2000 and 2016 it looks to have somehow grown in length by about 40 kilometers. It has such a strong magnetic pull that it is actually affecting how the inner core is rotating.

It’s likely that the massive stream of iron is wrapped around what’s called a ‘tangent cylinder’. This is a geometric structure that goes from the geographic North pole to the South and encompasses the inner core. The team behind the findings think that the serpent is pulled by changes in the core’s magnetic field.

Taking away the rather terrifying thought of a massive iron snake, the outer core is already a pretty hectic place. It’s the 2,300 kilometers thick, 7,730 Celsius engine that drives the mantle above it, which in turn moves the tectonic plates in the crust. The outer core also plays a big part in generating the Earth’s magnetosphere, and effectively allowing life to be possible.

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