Earth's core, located 1,800 miles below us, has always been mysterious—and new research sheds light on the fascinating processes that go on down there, while simultaneously adding to the mystery. The New York Times takes a look at new findings in a piece that also summarizes what's already known about the core, a ball of iron about the size of Mars that contributes to Earth's geography, seismic activity, and magnetic field. One new study finds that the iron in the core's outer layers is actually losing heat through conduction two to three times faster than previously thought, which could mean any number of things.
Scientists offered a few theories—perhaps the core has more radioactive material than previously believed, or maybe the chemical interactions going on are more dramatic than was once thought—but they acknowledge that the truth could be something even more novel and as yet undiscovered. "From what I can tell, people are excited," one of the researchers says. "They see there might be a new mechanism going on they didn’t think about before." Other studies suggest the inner core may be rotating more quickly than the rest of the planet, or that there may be even more layers than previously thought. See the Times for more. (Read more Earth stories.)