A study presents a new theory of how the continents formed
A new study has come up with a new theory about how continents form on Earth.
According to British newspaper The Independent, the formation of continents on Earth is part of the reason the planet is habitable and gives it a unique position among the other planets in our solar system.
But how these continents came into being is still a mystery, and the real and fundamental reason that led to the division of the Earth’s surface into these important regions is unknown to scientists.
One explanation for this refers to the so-called “crystallization of the mineral opal”, which was proposed in 2018 and has since become very popular.
In this explanation, garnet crystallizes in igneous rocks or lavas and moves downward, where an oceanic plate subducts a continental plate, and this process removes oxidized iron from the Earth’s crust.
But the new study overturns this hypothesis and provides a better understanding of the continents, as the researchers confirm.
The research team sought a way to test this hypothesis of agate crystallization in the laboratory, as they replicated the heat and pressure inside the Earth’s crust to investigate exactly what happened to it.
They did this using cylindrical pistons, which apply large amounts of force to small samples, as well as a heating technique that simultaneously heats a large amount of garnet.
Next, the researchers analyzed the lab-grown samples using X-rays, which can reveal the nature and composition of different materials.
The researchers compared these samples with other garnet samples for oxidized and unoxidized iron concentrations.
The team found that agates tested in the laboratory and exposed to conditions similar to those in the Earth’s crust did not absorb enough unoxidized iron.
As a result, continents form as a result of their ability to stand above sea level because the continental crust contains less iron and more oxygen than the crust beneath the oceans. This makes the continents less dense and more buoyant.
“These results make the ‘garnet crystallization’ model a highly unlikely explanation,” Elizabeth Cottrell, who led the new study, said in a statement. Conditions in the Earth’s crust below the crust of the continents may have created the conditions that formed the continents.
The researchers hope to work on further research to understand what happens in this mysterious process.
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