AKIPRESS.COM - For the first time, physicists have measured the planet’s mass using neutrinos, minuscule subatomic particles that can pass straight through the entire planet. Researchers also used the particles to probe the Earth’s innards, studying how the planet’s density varies from crust to core, Science News reports.
Typically, scientists determine Earth’s mass and density by quantifying the planet’s gravitational pull and by studying seismic waves that penetrate the globe. Neutrinos provide a completely independent test of the planet’s properties. Made using data from the IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole, the new planetary profile agreed with traditional measurements, a trio of physicists reports November 5 in Nature Physics.
To make the measurement, the scientists studied high-energy neutrinos that were produced when protons and other energetic particles from space slammed into the Earth’s atmosphere. These neutrinos can zip clean through the entire Earth, but sometimes they smash into atomic nuclei and are absorbed instead. How often neutrinos get stopped in their tracks reveals the density of the stuff they’re traveling through.