Map of the Earth’s Antineutrino Glow

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Scientists aren’t entirely sure just what happens in our Earth’s core- what drives it, what the results are and how much heat is produced from the radioactive energy deep under the Earth’s crust. Scientists can, however, map certain particles that are produced by this radioactive material breaking down. These subatomic particles are called antineutrinos, which are harmless by products of radioactive decay. They can be found as emissions from the Earth and in nuclear reactors.

A new map of antineutrino emissions has been created by scientists at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in the United States using data collected by detectors in Italy and Japan. The map is a bright display of where there are an abundance of antineutrino particles around the world, and where there are fewer emissions to be found. More than 10 septillion (1025) antineutrinos are released from the Earth every second.

Worldwide antineurino glow map showing geoneutrinos from both natural sources Uranium-238 and isotopes of thorium as well as from manmade sources such as power reactors.
Worldwide antineurino glow map showing geoneutrinos from both natural sources Uranium-238 and isotopes of thorium as well as from manmade sources such as power reactors. Map: Usman et al., 2015.

Scientists and other researchers hope that more study into antineutrinos will help answer the questions of how much heat and energy are produced by the nuclear reactions and radioactive material in the Earth’s core. Although scientists are able to measure some of these outputs, they haven’t been able to pinpoint just now much energy is released thus far.

The map does show areas that have higher levels of antineutrino emissions, which include the 58 nuclear power plants in France. These locations are the only ones that produce man-made antineutrino particles through the fission process; the rest are produced completely naturally. Other areas of high antineutrino concentration include mountaintops, which have a higher percentage of radioactive materials as part of their makeup.

Little antineutrino activity is found in the Pacific Ocean, leaving an opportunity for researchers to discover how much an ocean could affect antineutrino particle emissions. The antineutrino map will serve as a valuable asset to scientists who are looking into the world of antineutrino particles and radioactive emissions to learn more about our Earth.

From the article: All modeling and visualization was done with MATLAB. Google Maps and Google Earth multi-resolution raster pyramids created with MapTiler. All online content available at http://www.ultralytics.com/agm2015.

References

S.M. Usman et al. (2015). AGM2015: Antineutrino Global Map 2015Scientific Reports. Published online September 1, 2015. doi: 10.1038/srep13945.

Rosen, M. (2015, September 22).  Map captures Earth’s antineutrino glow. Science News.  Retrieved from: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/map-captures-earth’s-antineutrino-glow

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