Focus |

Core science

With only geophysical data to help us probe the centre of the Earth, the properties and dynamo-generating dynamics of Earth's metal-rich core remain poorly understood. In this web focus, we present a collection of articles and opinion pieces that offer insights into the composition, evolution and inner workings of the cores of Earth and other differentiated planetary bodies.


  • Nature Geoscience | Editorial

    Hidden under many kilometres of silicate mantle material, the cores of Earth and other planets are hard to investigate. The Psyche spacecraft, designed to visit a metal body that may be a core stripped of its mantle, could bring a close-up view.

  • Nature Geoscience | News & Views

    Variability of iron isotopes among planetary bodies may reflect their accretion or differentiation histories. Experiments suggest nickel may be the ingredient controlling iron isotope signatures, supporting fractionation during core formation.

    • Paolo A. Sossi
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Terrestrial basalts have a unique iron isotopic signature taken as fingerprints of core formation. Here, high pressure studies show that force constants of iron bonds increase with pressure similarly for silicate and metals suggesting interplanetary isotopic variability is not due to core formation.

    • Jin Liu
    • , Nicolas Dauphas
    • , Mathieu Roskosz
    • , Michael Y. Hu
    • , Hong Yang
    • , Wenli Bi
    • , Jiyong Zhao
    • , Esen E. Alp
    • , Justin Y. Hu
    •  &  Jung-Fu Lin
  • Nature Geoscience | Article

    The crystal structure of iron under the extreme pressures and temperatures of Earth’s core is debated. Numerical simulations suggest that the body-centred cubic structure of iron is stable under inner-core conditions.

    • Anatoly B. Belonoshko
    • , Timofei Lukinov
    • , Jie Fu
    • , Jijun Zhao
    • , Sergio Davis
    •  &  Sergei I. Simak

From the archives

  • Nature Geoscience | Review Article

    The geomagnetic field varies on a wide range of timescales. A review of emerging research suggests that field variations on the order of tens of millions of years may be linked to changes in heat flow across the core–mantle boundary.

    • A. J. Biggin
    • , B. Steinberger
    • , J. Aubert
    • , N. Suttie
    • , R. Holme
    • , T. H. Torsvik
    • , D. G. van der Meer
    •  &  D. J. J. van Hinsbergen
  • Nature Geoscience | Article

    Satellite observations have detected localized magnetic field changes at high latitudes. Simulations suggest these changes can be explained by a westward jet in the liquid core, which has been accelerating over the past 15 years.

    • Philip W. Livermore
    • , Rainer Hollerbach
    •  &  Christopher C. Finlay
  • Nature Geoscience | Letter

    The Earth’s outermost core is thought to be stratified. Turbulent mixing experiments suggest that merging between the cores of projectile and planet following the Moon-forming giant impact could have produced the stratification.

    • Maylis Landeau
    • , Peter Olson
    • , Renaud Deguen
    •  &  Benjamin H. Hirsh
  • Nature Geoscience | Letter

    Earth’s core exhibits similar elastic properties to rubber. Experiments show that a high-pressure phase of iron carbide modifies iron’s elastic properties under inner-core conditions, suggesting that carbon is the light element in the core.

    • C. Prescher
    • , L. Dubrovinsky
    • , E. Bykova
    • , I. Kupenko
    • , K. Glazyrin
    • , A. Kantor
    • , C. McCammon
    • , M. Mookherjee
    • , Y. Nakajima
    • , N. Miyajima
    • , R. Sinmyo
    • , V. Cerantola
    • , N. Dubrovinskaia
    • , V. Prakapenka
    • , R. Rüffer
    • , A. Chumakov
    •  &  M. Hanfland
  • Nature Geoscience | Letter

    Differentiated planetesimals may have delivered iron-rich material to Earth in giant impacts at the end of accretion. Impact experiments suggest that the planetesimals’ iron cores vaporized, aiding dispersal and mixing into Earth’s mantle.

    • Richard G. Kraus
    • , Seth Root
    • , Raymond W. Lemke
    • , Sarah T. Stewart
    • , Stein B. Jacobsen
    •  &  Thomas R. Mattsson