Today, you don’t need to look too far to find an example of what we’re doing to our planet. Whether it’s man-made climate change or you are looking into the impact our habits have on the environment, this is a topic that is growing all the time.
And it’s easy to see why; the planet we live on is quite important too, you know, our survival and prosperity. So, when we find out that the magnetic field of the Earth has helped to remain habitability on the planet twice before, we should be very thankful.
At the same time, maybe we should do more to pull our own weight?
Scientific experts have found that the planet has used its magnetic field twice to keep the planet habitable. The magnetic field was formed not long after the formation of the planet, and it’s played a vital role in encouraging life to emerge.
Indeed, it’s also been seen as a fine example of what science should be looking for when it comes to looking into alien lifeforms across the solar system.
The magnetic field that is around our planet is used to help deflect away harmful particles sent out from the sun. It’s also believed that Mars once has its own magnetic field, but it has been lost or destroyed.
That played a role in why the oceans are lifeless and the planet itself is stripped of any genuine atmosphere. With a magnetic field around Earth, though, we can retain habitability.
A study, which was published in the PNAS scientific journal, found the early magnetic field formed some 4.5bn years ago. That’s around 1 billion years earlier than was previously assumed.
John Tarduno, a Professor of Geophysics at the University of Rochester, made this discovery in the past. He said: "Early in Earth history the planet had to contend with intense solar winds streaming from the young sun,
These winds had the potential to erode the atmosphere, ultimately stripping the Earth of its water. Thus, Earth might have looked more like Mars today.
Instead, Earth's magnetic field provided a shield against the solar wind, preventing atmospheric erosion and massive water loss."
Tarduno has continued to research this topic and has found that the early magnetic field was much stronger than was previously first thought. They studied a series of zircon crystals, some of which are among the oldest materials that we can find on the planet.
Tarduno continued, saying: "Measuring Earth's earliest magnetic field is so difficult because the planet's oldest rocks have been metamorphosed over the billions of years since their formation," Tarduno explained.
"However, the magnetization held by select crystals bearing magnetite inclusions—zircons—can preserve records of the earliest field."
It's believed that at 4.1bn and 4bn years ago, the planet's magnetic field was extremely strong. This was likely caused due to the cooling process taking place after formation.
Fast forward to around 565m years ago, and the magnetic field itself almost collapsed. Thankfully, the inner core began to grow and it was able to grow strong enough again to allow for life to form on this planet.
Whether this helps us to find out what planets to look into for signs of alien life or not, we don’t know. What we do now know, though, is that the magnetic field has quite literally kept us from becoming the new Mars on a couple of occasions.