Photo courtesy of Carolina Valtuille via Flickr.
It’s strange to think that beneath the ground that gravity anchors us to are miles and miles of unsolved mysteries.
Sometimes it seems easier to ponder what’s above than what’s below; in reality, both are largely unknown entities. Science has come a long way in investigating what lies under our feet, and it’s stranger than you might think.
You can dive into the ocean, launch yourself into the stars, but there’s only so far you can actually dig — 8 miles, at best so far. For perspective, that’s only .2% of the distance to the core, and not even halfway through the crust.
Here are just several things you didn’t realize you might be standing on.
[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”HOkGaJvnbpuap3kbMvxI8gt4oFzZ6xuG”]How large? Try three times larger than all of Earth’s exterior oceans combined, large. And how deep? 400 miles underneath your feet. This enormous reservoir locked within a mineral material called ringwoodite located in what’s known as the transition zone between the upper and lower mantle.
It has been assumed for a while that water exists beneath the Earth’s surface, but to what extent is still not known. In March of 2014, however, researchers discovered that the water is likely much larger than previously anticipated.
What’s it mean? Water on Earth may have come from within the Earth itself, having been driven to the surface by geological activity, and not from icy comets as was previously theorized.
2. Fingers of Heat
You may fuzzily recall from 7th grade science that the inside of our planet is hella hot. And it’s true — in fact, recent research suggests the Earth’s center is about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit; hotter than the sun’s surface. Sunscreen es necesario.
But in a recent discovery, it turns out that some of this heat exists in the upper mantle in 1,000-mile-long “fingers” of hot seismic activity. Sound scary? Considering these heat fingers are likely the reason for hotspot volcanic activity, scary is an accurate enough description.
3. Dead Diamonds
If you don’t already, you should know that diamonds are a lot more than eye candy and engagement photo fodder. Diamonds were formed in the Earth’s deep lithosphere billions of years ago, where frothy magma shaped and ejected them to the surface.
But that’s not the only thing strange about diamonds. What’s more unusual, and perhaps a little morbid, is that some diamonds were once a living thing. The carbon element of a diamond sometimes comes from deceased creatures that sunk deep into the Earth’s mantle, to later be pulled into diamond formation.
So basically, underneath you, some ancient creature — maybe a dinosaur — is slowly turning into a diamond that someone may wear on their neck someday. You could be next.
4. Old Earth
If none of this is adequately strange for you, look no further than the center of the Earth. We’ll never actually be able to go to there, but scientists are able to deduce the composition fairly well: solid, crystals of magnetic iron and nickel.
Harvard scientists believe that the center of the Earth could be a little more freaky than even that. They’ve uncovered evidence in echos of an ancient Earth buried deep inside of Earth, the result of a planetary collision 4.5 billion years ago which may also have produced Earth’s moon.
Essentially, the Earth could be a planet-stuffed-planet. A planet that consumed its ancestor during a space-traffic accident. The evidence is all under your feet.