Scientists Discover Earth’s Core Has Sprung A Leak 

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

When you hear people talking about how the Earth’s core is leaking, you may wonder if they are discussing the plot of a new Star Trek episode. However, the leak is very real, although what it is and where it comes from are likely to take you by surprise. According to CNN, scientists found a shockingly large amount of helium-3 (a rare form of helium) inside the volcanic rocks on Canada’s Baffin Island, which may support a popular theory that the Earth’s core has been leaking helium for thousands of years.

Helium Is Leaking Out Of The Earth’s Core

As you might have guessed, there are several different types of helium, and the scientists in question also discovered the more common helium-4 in the same area. But it was the discovery of the much rarer helium-3 leaking that really caught their attention for a simple reason. Normally, you’re far likelier to find that particular kind of helium among the stars than here on Earth.

This Type Of Helium Is Typically Found In Space, Not On Earth


The reason why helium-3 is more commonly found in space has to do with the exact way that it leaks from the Earth’s core. According to Forrest Horton, a geology and geophysics expert at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, helium-3 is created when “Earth’s rocky portion stirs and convects like hot water on a stove top,” after which the “material ascends, cools, and sinks. During the cooling stage, helium is lost to the atmosphere and then to space.”

Scientists First Found This Leak In Canada

active volcano

In many ways, this recent discovery has been decades in the making. The very large ratio of helium-3 to helium-4 in Baffin Island’s volcanic rocks was first discovered by the University of Edinburgh doctoral student Solveigh Lass-Evans, and her findings were first published in 2003. 

Part of what made this discovery so exciting is that it offered more evidence for a major theory that Earth has its origins in a solar nebula that eventually collapsed because of a supernova’s shockwave. Theoretically, helium-3 was part of that solar nebula, and that is part of how it ended up in Earth’s core.

Helium And The Big Bang Theory

big bang theory

This ties back to the Big Bang theory (not to be confused with the show of the same name, though people on the internet like to yell about both). Basically, the helium from the nebula ended up stuck inside the Earth’s core during the formation of the planet, meaning that the core is filled with this and other noble gases. As magma plumes erupted on the island, the helium-3 escaped into the atmosphere.

The Leak Has Likely Been Occuring For Quite Some Time

Part of why the scientists are excited by these findings is that it helps support a leading theory that Earth has been leaking helium for millennia. However, the scientists working on the matter remain uncertain about exactly when this process began. Fortunately, you don’t have to be worried about the leaking helium harming us or the planet: the chemical doesn’t even react with matter, so all of us are safe. 

The team involved is hoping to discover more gases and other light elements in future research. Meanwhile, we’re hoping this doesn’t end up being a Star Trek episode after all. Let’s be honest: a story about a farting planet would fit right at home with the awful writing of the Very Short Treks episodes.

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