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Earth’s solid inner core is ‘surprisingly soft’ thanks to hyperactive atoms jostling around


An artist’s interpretation of what the Earth’s crust, mantle, outer core and inner core might look like when separated. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Scientists recently discovered that Earth‘s inner core, which was long thought to be an unmoving ball of solid metal, might be a lot less rigid than we expected. Now, a new study suggests this surprising softness may be caused by hyperactive atoms that move around within their molecular structure much more than we realized. 

The inner core is a massive spherical lump of metal, predominantly iron, that spans roughly 760 miles (1,220 kilometers) and dates back to at least 1 billion years ago. The inner core is enveloped by the outer core — a sea of swirling liquid metals — that is in turn surrounded by a massive layer of molten rock, known as the mantle, which sits just below the solid crust we live on.   

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