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Oxygen a bit player in Earth's outer core

Sulfur and silicon may be more abundant in the planet’s heart

Like a virtual journey to the center of the Earth, laboratory experiments are helping resolve a decades-old mystery that even Jules Verne couldn’t explain: what Earth’s core is made of.

In particular, oxygen makes up a smaller percentage of the core than scientists had thought, suggests a study in the Nov. 24 Nature. Knowing the core’s contents helps researchers better understand how Earth clumped together 4.5 billion years ago, says coauthor Yingwei Fei, a geochemist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.

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