Data From a Dead Satellite Reveals Lost Continents Under Antarctica
Scientists have detected long-lost continents hidden below Antarctica’s ice sheets the use of knowledge from a satellite tv for pc that has been lifeless for 5 years.
The new analysis, printed in Scientific Reports, sheds mild at the murky geological historical past of Antarctica during the last 200 million years, and condenses it on this 24-second animation. The video reconstructs the tectonic fallout of Antarctica splitting from the bygone landmass of Gondwana, which used to be one subsection of the supercontinent Pangaea. Beginning round 180 million years in the past, the core landmasses of Antarctica, India, and Australia broke off from Gondwana, and slowly shifted to their present places.
The visualization is in keeping with observations from the Gravity box and Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite tv for pc that operated in orbit from 2009 to 2013. For the ones 4 years, the satellite tv for pc mapped out Earth’s gravity box with unheard of precision, ahead of it used to be intentionally destroyed in atmospheric reentry. Since then scientists have combed over its measurements to create maps of Earth’s lithosphere, the tectonically lively layer that comes with the planet’s crust and outer mantle.
These maps cartoon out the remnants of long-lost landmasses trapped inside of drifting continental plates referred to as cratons. While some cratons are already well-understood, Antarctica’s lithospheric construction is hard to inspect as a result of its faraway location and the large ice sheets that difficult to understand its underlying geology.
“These gravity images are revolutionizing our ability to study the least understood continent on Earth—Antarctica,” mentioned learn about co-author Fausto Ferraccioli, science chief of geology and Geophysics on the British Antarctic Survey, in a commentary. “In East Antarctica, we see an exciting mosaic of geological features that reveal fundamental similarities and differences between the crust beneath Antarctica and other continents it was joined to until 160 million years ago.”
Using GOCE’s observations, the crew used to be ready to identify historic cratons beneath the ice fields of East Antarctica and hyperlink them to the area’s previous neighbors, India and Australia. West Antarctica, by contrast, has a thinner lithosphere that lacks those huge cratons.
“The comparisons demonstrate that the combination of seismological, and satellite gravity gradient imaging has significant potential to enhance our knowledge of Earth’s structure,” the learn about concluded. This is particularly true, the researchers added, about “remote frontiers like the Antarctic continent, where even basic knowledge of lithospheric scale features remains incomplete.”
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