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Name: Chantelle
Status: Student
Age: 8
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: August 26, 2004

How hard is the earth's mantle?

Thanks for your question... it is a very good one. To be honest, scientists do not yet know for sure how hard a mantle rock would be, or even what it would be made of, but we do have some pretty good ideas. You probably already know that the mantle is very deep within Earth. If you wanted to make a hole deep enough that would just reach the very top of the mantle, you would need to use a very special kind of drill and make a hole at least 20 kilometers deep! And, to make matters worse, you would have to drill the hole in the middle of the ocean! You could drill a hole on land, too, but you would have to make an even deeper one (80 kilometers!) to reach the mantle.

Drilling a hole to the mantle to collect rocks would be very difficult and expensive, but luckily for geologists, there are other ways to collect mantle rocks to find out what they are made of and feel like. Sometimes when volcanoes erupt, they carry broken pieces of rock from the mantle to the surface where they can be found by people. We know that these rocks come from the mantle because they are very different from the kinds of rocks that are normally made at Earth's surface. They feel just as hard as other rocks when we pick them up off the ground, but while they are still deep inside the mantle, they are a little softer. The mantle is a very, very hot place, and hard rocks can be made to feel softer when they are hot, just like M&M's become softer when you hold them in your hand. But, even though the rocks in the mantle are a little softer because of the high temperature there, they are still very hard.

Scott J. Badham
Department of Geology and Geophysics
University of Wyoming

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