Big Bang gas could be trapped inside the Earth

A nebula seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

A team of researchers recently reported that just over 4 pounds of helium-3 leaks from Earth each year, an indication that our planet formed in a solar nebula.

Helium-3 is a very old isotope of helium gas; virtually all of the helium-3 emerged from the Big Bang, although some also came from the radioactive decay of tritium. But primordial helium-3 – the stuff that synthesized in the aftermath of the Big Bang – ended up in clouds of gas and dust called nebulae that give rise to stars like our Sun and , of course, to planets like Earth.

The team studied the rate at which helium-3 escapes Earth through its mantle and used it to estimate the total amount of the isotope that could be in our planet’s core. Their research was published this week in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

“It’s a wonder of nature, and a clue to Earth’s history, that there is still a significant amount of this isotope inside the Earth,” said Peter Olson, a geophysicist at the University of New Mexico and lead author of the new study, in an American Geophysical Union Release. Olson added that the 4.4 pounds (about 2,000 grams) of helium-3 that escapes the planet each year is “about enough to fill a balloon the if.”ze from your office.

A The main idea about the formation of our solar system is the solar nebula theory, in which a spinning cloud of debris condensed to form the Sun and planets over billions of years. OhHis team reported that most helium-3 leaks come from Earth’s mid-ocean ridge system. They believe the helium-3 in the planet’s core accumulated when Earth was in the early stages of its formation.

Researchers remain uncertain how much helium-3 the nucleus actually acquired during its formation and how much it has since given up. If researchers find other gases associated with nebulae, such as hydrogen, emanating from Earth at locations and rates similar to helium-3, that would be a telltale sign that the nucleus is indeed where it is hiding. helium.

In total, the team calculated that there could be between 10 teragrams (1 million metric tons) and a whopping petagram (1 billion metric tons) of helium-3 in the core. That’s a huge range, but Olson noted in the statement that “there are far more mysteries than certainties.”

Regardless of the actual amount, however, the helium leak lends credence to the solar nebula theory, like a fart of truth that our world has been slowly letting go over 4 billions of years.

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