Researchers have found large quantities of helium-3 in Canada. The discovery seems to indicate that the Earth’s core is leaking, because the substance is normally deep inside the Earth. Helium-3 is not dangerous and even quite useful.
Scientists examined volcanic rocks on Baffin Island, an island in northern Canada. They found minerals 62 million years old that contained helium-3. They describe their research in Nature.
Previously, scientists in Iceland found almost exactly the same amounts of helium-3. According to the researchers, this proves that the gas leaks from the same place (the Earth’s core) to different places on the surface.
Helium-3 is stable, meaning it is not radioactive and poses no danger to humans. It is used in nuclear fusion research, which focuses, among other things, on the search for clean energy.
Studying the interior of the Earth
The gas was created during the Big Bang, almost fourteen billion years ago. When the Earth formed about four billion years ago, a cloud of helium-3 became ‘trapped’ in the core of our planet. The rest of the Earth formed around that core.
The Earth’s core is extremely hot and there is incredible pressure. Man does not yet have the technology to travel to the Earth’s core. Because the gas rises, we can still study the interior of the Earth. This way we can learn more about how the earth came into being.
Helium-3 is probably ‘dragged’ up in bubbles by the Earth’s moving mantle, which consists of molten rock. It comes to the surface via magma and lava flows. As a result, it is found in places where volcanoes are active.
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