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Why didn't the center of the earth cool after millions or billions of years? What keeps it hot?

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closed as off-topic by called2voyage Dec 12 '13 at 14:44

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  • "Questions about Earth science, unless directly related to phenomena observable on other celestials, Solar system in general of which Earth is a part, or as an origin of observational astronomy where its movement, local/global phenomena might affect observations and measurements, is off-topic. For more information, see the meta discussion." – called2voyage
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This is more of a geoscience concept as it stands. Do you wish to expand it to include comparisons with other terrestrial planets? –  user8 Oct 19 '13 at 3:41
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The relevance of geoscience questions is being dicussed here on Meta. –  called2voyage Oct 21 '13 at 13:21

2 Answers 2

There is a nice article from Scientific American, but the main point is:

There are three main sources of heat in the deep earth: (1) heat from when the planet formed and accreted, which has not yet been lost; (2) frictional heating, caused by denser core material sinking to the center of the planet; and (3) heat from the decay of radioactive elements.

Other planets may have more or less radioactive material and this will make a difference over time as to whether they continue to have a molten core, or become volcanically and tectonically inactive.

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From a simplistic point of view the rate of cooling depends on the ratio of surface area to volume. It is complicated by the rate of heat transfer of various layers, and internal sources of "new" heat in addition to the heat generated when the planet formed. The main way heat is lost is radiation to space. The atmosphere itself acts a a kind of "blanket" to sow the radiation loss(de Pater and Lissauer, Planetary Sciences)

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