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Would it be possible to send a robotic probe to the Earth's core?

  1. May 18, 2016 #1
    Would it be possible to send a robotic probe to the Earth's core?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 18, 2016 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Given our current technology - no. Please do not start speculating, PF is meant for proven Science.

    Consider some of the facts mentioned here: temperature, pressure being the most daunting
  4. May 18, 2016 #3


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    Sure. But finding someone to dig the hole is the challenging part.
  5. May 18, 2016 #4
    Such a project would be exposed to temperatures of thousands of degrees even while still in the mantle, nowhere near the core.
    I'm pretty sure that would lead to many possible modes of structural failure, but probably the electronic systems would fry before it got to that stage.
  6. May 18, 2016 #5


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    No. We estimate the core-mantle boundary to be at ~ 3700°K. None of our technology would work at that temperature. The deepest hole we've ever dug is a little over 12 km at which temperatures our equipment failed due (mostly) to temperature (and those temps were far cooler than 1000°C!). For comparison, the mantle-core boundary is at ~ 2900 km. It is impossible to predict whether there will be some "advanced technology" which will allow us to dig down through the Mantle, but the likelihood is vanishingly small based on what we know now.
  7. May 19, 2016 #6

    D H

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    Today is May 19th. You missed April Fools' Day by a month and a half.
  8. May 24, 2016 #7


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    The pressure would be equally challenging to deal with as the temperature. Whatever the original shape of your "probe" it would be crushed into a sphere with any air gaps being crushed into nothing. I calculated the pressure once and the strength of the pressure vessel material required was far beyond any known material. I don't recall the numbers off hand but calculating the pressure at the center of the earth is an interesting problem.
  9. May 24, 2016 #8
    At the core there is no solid material as it will be a molten high temperature goo.
  10. May 24, 2016 #9

    jim mcnamara

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    No - the inner core is thought to be solid due to enormous pressure - see the link about the inner core in post #2 above.
  11. May 26, 2016 #10
    Stevenson's 2003 paper in Nature illustrates the scale of technology that would be required for such an undertaking.

    Nature 423, 239-240 (15 May 2003)
    Planetary science: Mission to Earth's core — a modest proposal
    Planetary missions have enhanced our understanding of the Solar System and how planets work, but no comparable exploratory effort has been directed towards the Earth's interior, where equally fascinating scientific issues are waiting to be investigated. Here I propose a scheme for a mission to the Earth's core, in which a small communication probe would be conveyed in a huge volume of liquid-iron alloy migrating down to the core along a crack that is propagating under the action of gravity. The grapefruit-sized probe would transmit its findings back to the surface using high-frequency seismic waves sensed by a ground-coupled wave detector. The probe should take about a week to reach the core, and the minimum mass of molten iron required would be 108–1010 kg — or roughly between an hour and a week of Earth's total iron-foundry production.
  12. May 28, 2016 #11
    That's a lot of iron.

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