“Ghost Particles” Helped Scientists Measure The Mass of Earth

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Since it is impossible to measure the mass of Earth with an X-ray or MRI scanner, the scientists came up with a fantastic new method to achieve that measurement. They used the so-called “ghost particles,” some subatomic particles, that stream through our planet continuously.

Using neutrinos, the team of physicists from the Institute for Corpuscular Physics (IFIC) in Valencia, Spain, managed to come up with a new and accurate measurement of the mass of Earth. The researchers used the data gathered by the IceCube neutrino detector over one year. Neutrinos are defined the most abundant particles in the Universe, although they are hard to be identified. They are like electrons only that they do not have an electrical charge and their masses are approximately zero.

Neutrinos are known as “ghost particles,” and they zip through matter continuously without altering its state but also without modifying their own conditions.

“Ghost Particles” Helped Scientists Measure The Mass of Earth

“The use of atmospheric neutrinos allows us to have neutrinos coming from all directions, with a wide range of energy and a known flux with enough precision,” explained Sergio Palomares-Ruiz from IFIC. “The amount of absorption of atmospheric neutrino flux depends on the amount of material traversed as well as the energy of the neutrinos, so by studying the variation of the amount of absorption in different directions for neutrinos of different energy, we can determine the distribution of density of the Earth,” he added.

Commonly, the density of our planet is measured – not entirely accurately – by the way the seismic waves propagate when earthquakes form. Unfortunately for the scientists, seismic waves cannot penetrate the Earth’s inner core.

“The neutrinos, on the other hand, go through it all, offering valuable information about the unknown nucleus of the Earth, where the magnetism of the planet is generated,” added Andrea Donini, also from IFIC.

“Our results demonstrate the feasibility of this approach to study the Earth’s internal structure, which is complementary to traditional geophysics methods,” the researchers wrote in their paper,” the study’s report reads.

Vadim Ioan Caraiman

With over seven years of experience in online journalism, Vadim is passionate about everything related to science and the environment. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.


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