Pieces of incredibly dense, hot material are more widespread around Earth’s core than previously thought. A new technique of analyzing earthquake data has shown that there is much more of the continent-sized zones located at the boundary between the mantle and the core of our planet.
For now, we do not exactly know what these blobs are. They could be molten iron leaking from Earth’s actual core, magma, or perhaps something else. A more complete, detailed map of the exact location of these blobs could still give us a better insight on the geological processes going on inside the planet’s interior.
The way the tremors and quakes propagate though different kinds of the material located inside the planet have enabled seismologists to rebuild and make a comprehensive map of the composition of Earth’s interior. This technique is how big blobs of ultra-hot material were first identified at the boundary between the mantle and the core of the planet. That first happened decades ago.
Heat causes much greater degrees of melting. These zones slow the velocity of the earthquake waves situated right below the blobs. For this reason, the blobs are known as ultra low-velocity zones. Earthquakes, however, can be quite an unsatisfactory tool, as they only provide trickles of information at once. In order to collect some data on the blobs using earthquakes, you have to wait for them. Every earthquake probes a narrow zone and weaker signals get lost in the overall noise.
To compensate for the issue, researchers affiliated with the University of Maryland, Tel Aviv University and John Hopkins University decided to turn to a most peculiar source. They actually used an algorithm that is normally used for studying stars. It is known as the Sequencer, and it was originally designed to run through very large astronomical datasets to look for repeating patterns.