Ancient Roots of Earth Magnetism

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The Earth may have developed a magnetic field four billion years ago, more than half a billion years earlier than previously thought.

John Tarduno of the University of Rochester in New York and his colleagues measured weak magnetic signals from iron-bearing minerals trapped inside four-billion-year-old zircon crystals in the Jack Hills region of Western Australia . They found that the intensity of the magnetic field fluctuated, from a value similar to the current field (about 25 microteslas) to about 12% of it.

An ancient magnetic field when the planet was only about 500 million years old would have been a good, if imperfect, shield against the solar wind. This could have made the young planet more hospitable to life, the authors say.

Science 349521–524 (2015)

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Ancient roots of terrestrial magnetism.
Nature 524, 9 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/524009c

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