Something Is Sucking Iron Out of Earth's Crust, and Scientists Think They Know What | 5/23/2018 | Staff
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What makes the Red Planet red? The answer, as Sherlock Holmes might say, is elementary. And that element is iron.

The continental crust of Mars is so iron-rich that, over billions of years, surface rocks actually rust when exposed to the meager oxygen in the planet's atmosphere. The result is a rust-coated planet that appears red, even from Earth.

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Earth might rust, too, for that matter, if just a fraction more iron was present in the planet's continental crust. But something, deep underground, is stealing Earth's iron.

On May 20, 1978, NASA launched a spacecraft to Venus. The mission was called Pioneer-Venus 1, but it’s also known as the Pioneer Venus Orbiter. This was the first of two spacecraft that made up the Pioneer Venus mission. Pioneer Venus 2 launched a couple months later, and that spacecraft dropped five probes onto the surface of Venus. NASA called this the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe. The orbiter was designed to study the atmosphere of Venus. It was a solar-powered cylinder about the size of a hot tub. The mission launched from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas-Centaur rocket and reached Venus about six months later. While orbiting Venus, it measured the structure of the upper atmosphere and studied how the solar wind interacts with its ionosphere and magnetic field. It also detected gamma-ray bursts and made ultraviolet observations of comets. Pioneer Venus 1 continued to beam back data for 14 years before its decaying orbit sent it into Venus’s atmosphere, where it was destroyed.

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"The accepted wisdom is that magnetite pulls iron from the [magma] melt before the melt rises and gets erupted out at continental [volcano] arcs," study author Ming Tang, an assistant professor at Rice University, said in a statement. "Iron depletion is most pronounced at continental arcs, where the crust is thick, and much less...
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