Would we exist if Earth’s magnetic field hadn’t collapsed 500m years ago? | Science

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The Earth’s magnetic field is vital for life – without it, the Sun’s radiation would sterilize the planet. But a new study suggests we wouldn’t be here at all if that magnetic field hadn’t almost completely collapsed half a billion years ago.

A lot of factors had to come together just right for Earth to be habitable. Not only did the planet need to be exactly the right distance from the Sun, but it needed to be rocky, watery, contain the right ingredients for life, and of course, have a strong magnetic field that prevents dangerous radiation from the Sun and interstellar space from reaching the surface.

While it’s mostly stable, that magnetic field does fluctuate over time. In a new study, scientists from the University of Rochester identified its weakest point in Earth’s history – but surprisingly, it seems to have happened just before complex life exploded on the scene, rather than coincide with a mass extinction as you might expect.

Ancient minerals can preserve a record of the magnetic field’s strength at the time, thanks to magnetic particles in them. The Rochester researchers measured this magnetization in feldspar and pyroxene crystals, comparing samples…

Source newatlas.com

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