A radioactive map of our beautiful blue planet

5 Sep 2015

A flux map of the Earth

Scientists have mapped the radiation that exists on planet Earth using antineutrino detectors in a project entitled AGM2015. The result? This is a pretty radioactive place.

The open source map project published in Nature this week shows us that neutrinos and antineutrinos are everywhere around us, and don’t just come from sun rays and nuclear reactors, but can be detected within the Earth, its atmosphere and, of course, across the cosmos.

The neutrino was theorised by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930 to explain the continuous energy spectrum of nuclear beta rays. Further research by Enrico Fermi around the time of the Manhattan Project in the 1940s produced a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction caused by antineutrinos, antimatter cousins to neutrinos and the smallest particles known to science.

The scientists conclude that the level of interactions between these particles means that the Earth is pretty much a “neutrino star” in terms of the sheer amount of radiation activity.

Yes, the Earth as we know it is one giant nuclear reactor and, as Moby sang, we are all made of stars.


AGM2015 reactor- flux in the 3.00–3.01 MeV energy bin (in logspace color).


6 select energy bins out of the 1100 total AGM2015 energy bins, which uniformly span the 0 MeV–11 MeV energy range

radioactive 4

Luminosity per square kilometer per CRUST1.0 layer


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years