Tag: earth

The Remarkable Island Born From An Underwater Volcanic Eruption

 

Nearly three years ago, an island sprung into existence in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, nestling between two older islands in the archipelago.

The new island formed after the eruption of a submarine volcano in the region, which flung ash 30,000 feet into the sky, before it eventually settled in January 2015.

While scientists first estimated that the island with a 400-foot (120-meter) summit would last just a few months, new calculations suggest it could remain in its new place for as much as 30 years.

The island has come to be known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai.

It became visible to satellites in 2015, and is the first of its kind to emerge and survive in the modern satellite era, according to NASA.




A stunning time-lapse released by the space agency this week reveals how its shape has changed since it first emerged, using 33 months of high-resolution satellite data.

Over the last 150 years, there have been three of these ‘surtseyan’ volcanic island formations, with the Tongan being the most recent.

It sits on the north rim of a caldera atop an underwater volcano, which is nearly 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) higher than the surrounding sea floor, the researchers say.

Volcanic islands are some of the simplest landforms to make“, said Jim Garvin, chief scientist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Our interest is to calculate how much the 3D landscape changes over time, particularly its volume, which has only been measured a few times at other such islands.

It’s the first step to understand erosion rates and processes and to decipher why it has persisted longer than most people expected.

Experts were able to track the formation of the new Tongan island since its beginning, using high-resolution satellite observations.

The scientists first began watching the island after the initial eruption died down, using images from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments to make a 3D map of its topography.

According to the team, there are two potential scenarios that could play out. The island could experience accelerated erosion by wave abrasion, they say.

This would destabilize the tuff cone in roughly six to seven years, leaving behind a land-bridge between the two neighbouring islands.

Or, erosion could occur at a slower rate, which would leave it intact for 25-30 years.

According to the researchers, the new Tongan island may be experiencing similar interactions as seen at Surtsey, where warmed seawater and ash chemically altered the rock to create a tougher material.

And, a similar process could help explain some of the volcanic features on Mars.

Everything we learn about what we see on Mars is based on the experience of interpreting Earth phenomena,” Garvin said.

We think there were eruptions on Mars at a time when there were areas of persistent surface water.

We may be able to use this new Tongan island and its evolution as a way of testing whether any of those represented an oceanic environment or ephemeral lake environment.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Scientists Are Slowly Unlocking The Secrets Of The Earth’s Mysterious Hum

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

— Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”

The world hums. It shivers endlessly.

It’s a low, ceaseless droning of unclear origin that rolls imperceptibly beneath our feet, impossible to hear with human ears.

A researcher once described it to HuffPost as the sound of static on an old TV, slowed down 10,000 times.

It’s comforting to think of Earth as solid and immovable, but that’s false. The world is vibrating, stretching and compressing. We’re shaking right along with it.

The earth is ringing like a bell all the time,” said Spahr Webb, a seismologist at Columbia University.

The hum is everywhere. Its ultralow frequencies have been recorded in Antarctica and Algeria, and — as announced this week by the American Geophysical Union — on the floor of the Indian Ocean.

We still don’t know what causes it.




Some have theorized that it’s the echo of colliding ocean waves, or the movements of the atmosphere, or vibrations born of sea and sky alike.

But if we could hear this music more clearly, scientists around the world say, it could reveal deep secrets about the earth beneath us, or even teach us to map out alien planets.

And the hum is getting clearer all the time.

Earth vibrates at different frequencies and amplitudes, for different reasons, and not all those vibrations are the ‘hum’. Earthquakes are like huge gong bangs.

When an enormous quake hit Japan in 2011, Webb said, the globe kept ringing for a month afterward.

People sitting on the other side of the world bounced up and down about a centimeter, though so slowly they didn’t feel a thing.

In 1998, a team of researchers analyzed data from a gravimeter in east Antarctica and realized that some of these vibrations never actually stop.

The phenomenon became popularly known as the “hum of the Earth.

Webb was one of many researchers who searched for the hum’s cause in the 21st century.

Some thought interactions between the atmosphere and solid ground caused the shaking, though he discounts the idea.

Sometimes waves sloshing in opposite directions intersect, sending vibrations deep down into Earth’s crust.

Sometimes a wave on a shallow coast somewhere ripples over the rough sea floor and adds its own frequencies to the hum.

Whatever the origin, the result is a harmony of ultralow frequencies that resonate almost identically all over the globe.

And that’s potentially invaluable to those who want to know what goes on beneath its surface, where the core spins and tectonic plates shift.

Scientists already measure how fast earthquake waves travel through different regions of the underground to make detailed subterranean maps.

The scientists collected data from seismometer stations that had been placed in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar several years ago.

These stations were meant to study volcanic hot spots nothing to do with the hum but the team worked out a method to clean the data of ocean currents, waves, glitches and other noise.

It peaked between 2.9 and 4.5 millihertz, they said — a tighter range than the first hum researchers in the 1990s had recorded.

It was also similar to measurements taken from a land-based station in Algeria.

So more evidence that the hum goes all the way around the world; and more hope that we may one day reveal all that goes on beneath it.

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Bacteria On Space Station Likely From Germy Humans, Not Aliens

Living bacteria have been found on the outside of the International Space Station, a Russian cosmonaut told the state news agency TASS this week.

Anton Shkaplerov, who will lead Russia’s ISS crew in December, said that previous cosmonauts swabbed the station’s Russian segment during spacewalks and sent the samples back to Earth.

The samples came from places on the station that had accumulated fuel waste, as well as other obscure nooks and crannies.

Their tests showed that the swabs held types of bacteria that were not on the module when it originally launched into orbit, Shkaplerov says.

In his interview with TASS, Shkaplerov says the bacteria “have come from outer space and settled along the external surface“, a claim that sparked some media outlets to issue frenzied reports about aliens colonizing the space station.

For now, though, details about the swabbing experiment are thin on the ground.




Shkaplerov did not note whether the study has been vetted by a peer-reviewed journal, which means it’s unclear exactly when and how the full experiment was conducted, or how the team avoided any contamination from much more mundane bacteria on the cosmonauts or in the Earth-bound lab.

Interview requests with the Russian space agency were unanswered when this article went to press. Up in the vacuum of space, microbes have to deal with turbulent temperatures, cosmic radiation, and ultraviolet light.

But Earth is home to plenty of hardy organisms that can survive in extreme environments, like virtually indestructible tardigrades.

Sometimes, researchers intentionally send terrestrial contaminants, such as E. coli and rocks covered in bacteria, into space to see how it will react.

And TASS reports that on a previous ISS mission, bacteria accidentally hitched a ride to the station on tablet PCs and other materials.

Scientists sent these objects up to see how they would fare in space, and the freeriding organisms managed to infiltrate the outside of the station.

They remained there for three years, braving temperatures fluctuating between -150 and 150 degrees Celsius.

 

These types of discoveries present concerns for scientists trying to limit the spread of human germs on other worlds.

NASA in particular has set strict limits on its interplanetary contamination.

Apollo astronauts were quarantined when they returned from their missions, for example, to prevent extraterrestrial germs from making their way out into the world.

And almost all equipment from Earth is sterilized before it heads skyward, either with extreme heat or an alcohol bath, depending on its intended destination.

These treatments are especially important for missions sent to Mars, which may have once hosted its own life-forms, leaving fossil traces in the rusty rocks.

But all bets may be off when and if we manage to send humans to explore Mars, writes The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla: “Once we’ve put humans on the surface, alive or dead, it becomes much, much harder to identify native Martian life.”

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The Big Bang Wasn’t The Beginning

What if the Big Bang wasn’t the beginning of the universe, but only one stage in an endlessly repeated cycle of universal expansion and contraction?

So suggests mathematical physicist and string theorist Neil Turok.

He thinks there may be many universes, at once interpolated but separate, like a mixture of gases.

These universes are attracted to each other; every few trillions of trillions of years, they collide, explode, expand and contract, then repeat the sequence all over again.

According to Turok, winner of the first TED Prize of 2008, “The Big Bang theory rests very strongly on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which combines with nuclear and particle physics and all the other physical laws to describe the contents of the universe.




The theory is that 13.7 billion years ago, there was a singularity, a point of infinite density, and the universe emerged, emerging and very hot, from that singularity.

But the singularity is not describable with Einstein’s theory. The theory fails: everything goes to infinity. The density of the universe goes to infinity.

The curvature of spacetime goes to infinity. All the properties we normally use to describe the universe and its contents just fail.

Experts just say, “Let’s assume the universe sprang into existence, start our decription a tiny fraction of a second after that, run the clock forward and never ask where it came from.”

Turok’s theory:

“Imagine two sheets on a washing line, and they’re very close together, very nearly parallel. Those are two-dimensional sheets; ours are three-dimensional.”

“Think of it as two intimately intertwined objects which are nevertheless able to exert force on each other, a pull. The Big Bang is the touching of those two sheets. When they touch, they release that energy.”

Interestingly, Turok’s theory hasn’t always been well-received by Christians, for whom the Big Bang dovetails neatly with their creation myths.

Conversely, New Age types have embraced this scientific picture of a cyclical universe without beginning or end. Turok, for his part, doesn’t want any such attention.

I see religion and science as being two completely different things,” he said.

Science studies how the world operates, not why it?’s here. I think the world is an incredible miracle, and we have to do whatever we can to appreciate it.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Leftovers From The Moon’s Formation May Have Tunnelled To The Earth’s Core

The origin of our moon has long been debated.

Now, a scientist has claimed that Earth effectively ‘gave birth‘ to the moon four-and-a-half billion years ago.

A controversial new theory has been proposed that a giant explosion equivalent to 40 billion atomic bombs originating from the Earth’s core somehow led to the formation of the moon.

Planetary scientist Wim van Westrenen believes this violent event took place approximately four-and-a-half billion years ago and could answer the hotly contested question of where our moon comes from.

The scientist, from VU University in Amsterdam said that previous explanations about how the moon came to be simply do not add up.

Charles Darwin’s son, astronomer George Darwin, proposed that the early Earth spun so fast that it fell apart, hurling a part of itself into space that became the moon.





His theory was popular but was then eclipsed by the giant impact hypothesis, or ‘big splat‘, which said that a Mars-sized object crashed into an infant Earth and shattered on impact, the magazine reported.

In this theory, the debris formed the moon. However, it was largely thrown-out when astronauts brought back rocks from the Apollo moon landings.

Chemical analysis of the rocks last year by the University of Chicago found that they shared identical oxygen, silicon and potassium isotopes with Earth, hinting that the Moon shares its origin with the Earth.

Van Westeren said that taken at face value, the findings suggest that the moon was once part of the Earth that was blasted into space by an enormous explosion from the Earth’s fiery core.

To do this, he believes that there must have been a ‘massive energy kick‘ delivered quickly and he calculates that the explosion was the strength of 40 billion atomic bombs the size of those dropped on Hiroshima.

The idea that the Earth’s core harbours a huge nuclear reactor has been around for over 60 years.

There is also evidence of much smaller natural fossil reactors up to 10 metres across in West Africa that were active around 10 billion years ago.

This theory of  an internal nuclear reactor could explain why Earth gives out more energy than it receives from the sun.

However, experts have said that even if evidence of “global georeactors” was found, many scientists would need convincing that they were capable of creating the moon.

There are many conflicting ideas of exactly how the moon came to be and scientists are starting to re-question older theories.

Matija Cuk, a planetary scientist at Harvard University said: “I don’t think you can separate the moon’s formation from a giant impact.”

But he draws upon Darwin’s idea and the big splat and believes that a peculiar alignment of the sun, earth and moon is the reason why the moon orbits the Earth.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Europa: Facts About Jupiter’s Icy Moon And Its Ocean

Europa is one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, along with Io, Ganymede and Callisto. Astronomer Galileo Galilei gets the credit for discovering these moons, among the largest in the solar system.

Europa is the smallest of the four but it is one of the more intriguing satellites.

The surface of Europa is frozen, covered with a layer of ice, but scientists think there is an ocean beneath the surface. The icy surface also makes the moon one of the most reflective in the solar system.

Water plumes were spotted jetting from the moon in 2013, although those observations have not been repeated.

Several spacecraft have done flybys of Europa (including Pioneers 10 and 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2 in the 1970s).

The Galileo spacecraft did a long-term mission at Jupiter and its moons between 1995 and 2003.

Both NASA and the European Space Agency plan missions to Europa and other moons in the 2030s.




Galileo Galilei discovered Europa on Jan. 8, 1610. It is possible that German astronomer Simon Marius (1573-1624) also discovered the moon at the same time.

However, he did not publish his observations, so it is Galileo who is most often credited with the discovery. For this reason, Europa and Jupiter’s other three largest moons are often called the Galilean moons.

Galileo, however, called the moons the Medicean planets in honor of the Medici family.

It is possible Galileo actually observed Europa a day earlier, on Jan. 7, 1610. However, because he was using a low-powered telescope, he couldn’t differentiate Europa from Io, another of Jupiter’s moons.

It wasn’t until later that Galileo realized they were two separate bodies.

The discovery not only had astronomical, but also religious implications. At the time, the Catholic Church supported the idea that everything orbited the Earth, an idea supported in ancient times by Aristotle and Ptolemy.

Galileo’s observations of Jupiter’s moons as well as noticing that Venus went through “phases” similar to our own moon gave compelling evidence that not everything revolved around the Earth.

As telescopic observations improved, however, a new view of the universe emerged.

The moons and the planets were not unchanging and perfect; for example, mountains seen on the moon showed that geological processes happened elsewhere. Also, all planets revolved around the sun.

Over time, moons around other planets were discovered and additional moons found around Jupiter.

Marius, the other “discoverer,” first proposed that the four moons be given their current names, from Greek mythology.

But it wasn’t until the 19th century that the moons were officially given the so-called Galilean names we know them by today.

All of Jupiter’s moons are named for the god’s lovers (or victims, depending on your point of view).

In Greek mythology, Europa was abducted by Zeus, who had taken the form of a spotless white bull to seduce her.

She decorated the “bull” with flowers and rode on its back to Crete. Once in Crete, Zeus then transformed back to his original form and seduced her.

Europa was the queen of Crete and bore Zeus many children.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How Do We Clean Up All That Space Debris?

This is a big problem that many people are still trying to figure out, because there is a lot of junk out in space, and it is incredibly dangerous.

As of September 2012, we are currently monitoring 21,000 individual pieces of stuff orbiting the planet which are larger than about 2 inches.

Anything this size which is going fast enough to stay in orbit poses a significant threat to satellites, spacecraft, and space stations.

The ISS will regularly maneuver out of the way of space junk if we see it coming soon enough.

If there isn’t enough time to move the whole ISS, then the crew members of the ISS have to take shelter in one of the Soyuz capsules which are attached to the ISS in case an emergency evacuation is needed.

The two inch limit on tracking isn’t an indication that there aren’t any pieces smaller than that, or that we don’t have to worry about the little ones; we simply can’t spot them from the ground.




We fully expect there to be around 100 million more objects out there in the < 0.5 inch category.

Even paint chips at orbital speeds can cause significant damage to a spacecraft. A few of the space shuttle missions had paint flakes impact the windshield of the craft, which is an unsettling sight to say the least.

I can tell you the worst way to clean up a dead satellite, which unfortunately happened in 2007; the Chinese military decided to test their anti-satellite technology on one of their dead weather satellites.

This test successfully exploded the dead satellite, and created over two thousand new pieces of space debris, which, at the time, increased our space junk tally by 25%.

There have been a few suggestions on how to get the stuff that’s already up there down; some options are more passive than others.

The space station Mir ran an experiment in 1996 where they attached pieces of gel onto the outside of the space station to see what kinds of microscopic space junk they could catch.

They found a lot of liquid droplets, soap, and tiny paint fragments, along with pieces of broken spacecraft, and tiny electronic fragments.

This was instructive, but not particularly effective for cleaning out the reservoir of stuff surrounding our planet.

The best method to date to keep the skies clear is to make sure that when you put a spacecraft up in space, it comes with a way to come down again.

Usually this means that the craft should have a way to intentionally slow itself down enough to re-enter the atmosphere.

But those are only options for spacecraft which haven’t yet been launched, or have thought ahead more than most, and it doesn’t help get rid of the dead satellites we can’t communicate with, or any of the broken pieces of satellite shrapnel.

For those, the only option is to send up some kind of clean-up satellite which can help slow down all the miscellaneous pieces.

Again, there have been many proposals; the most plausible involve grabbing onto dead spacecraft somehow, and then de-orbiting as a pair.

Unfortunately, we can’t just go up and push every dead satellite down to Earth; not only is this impractical in the extreme.

All of the privately owned satellites are still privately owned regardless of whether or not they still work, and burning them up in the atmosphere would be burning someone else’s property, even if it doesn’t work anymore.

For now, until some of these cleaner satellites can get up there and start pulling down some of the pieces, our main goal with space debris is simply to not produce any more than we already have.

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According To A Russian Cosmonaut, Bacteria Found On International Space Station May Be Alien In Origin

Bacteria found on the outside of the International Space station could be alien life, according to a cosmonaut who has visited the satellite.

Spacewalkers regularly take samples and materials from the outside of the station when they head outside for what are officially called “extravehicular activity“.

Those samples are then taken down to scientists on Earth, who study them to understand the workings of the International Space Station and possibly life in space.

Now Anton Shkaplerov, a Russian cosmonaut who has served on board the space lab, told the Russian state news agency that one of those experiments had found something interesting.

Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs,” Mr Shkaplerov said. “So they have flown from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull.




He made clear that “it seems, there is no danger “, and that scientists are doing more work to find out what they are.

He said also that similar missions had found bacteria that could survive temperatures between -150 degrees celsius and 150.

That bacteria appears to have made its way from Earth – but suggests that it can survive in the harsh environments of space.

It isn’t entirely clear where the rumoured organisms are currently being stored, and what scientists know about them.

Finding bacteria that came from somewhere other than Earth would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of science – but much more must be done before such a claim is made.

Earlier this year, Russian scientists announced that the “Test” experiments had found a range of different organisms that had been brought up from Earth and seemed to be surviving by clinging onto the ISS’s hull.

They included plankton and bacteria that had been pulled up by a phenomenon that lifts micro-organisms up into the heights of the atmosphere.

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According To This Man, A Rocket Launch Will Prove Earth Is Flat

This Saturday you’ll be able to watch live streaming footage of a flat-earther as he tries to prove the Earth is flat.

Mike Hughes and his homemade steam-powered rocket are working till the end, tweaking the rocket that will send him on a 500 mph mile-long flight across the Mojave Desert.

The ultimate goal? To prove astronauts, government agencies, and Elon Musk wrong; that the Earth is indeed a flat disk.

To do this Hughes will climb aboard the rocket he built from scrap metal and launch himself 1,800 feet into the air in order to take photos proving the Earth is flat.




“I don’t believe in science. I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.” Hughes told The Associated Press.

While this isn’t the first time Hughes has launched himself on a homemade rocket, this will be the highest and farthest by far.

The rocket will launch from a modified mobile home in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Meanwhile, he’s noted that this is just his first phase in his flat-earth space program.

Mike Hughes, a limo-driver in California, has been in the spotlight before for his daredevil stunts. .

From a 2002 Guinness World Record limousine jump to various rocket launches, Hughes has made a name for himself with homemade stunts.

Eventually, Hughes plans to launch himself miles above the Earth and take photos of the flat Earth below.

Hughes has often cited fake NASA and SpaceX launches, noting that NASA is controlled by a group of Freemasons and somehow that means they’re all lying to us.

Thankfully, we have Hughes to debunk the round Earth claims and prove we all live on a disc. His first rocket launch was in 2014 when he rode his homemade rocket on a quarter-mile trek at Winkelman, Arizona.

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50 Years Ago, The Theory Of Plate Tectonics Was Radical Counterculture

The Geological Society of London, a learned society and not-for-profit membership organisation serving the Earth sciences community in the UK and overseas, has been privileged to receive the archive of one of Britain’s greatest living scientists, geophysicist Dan McKenzie.

Professor Dan McKenzie was central to formulating the ideas that led to the theory of plate tectonics which, in 1967, represented a paradigm shift in what is now referred to as Earth science.

He and other key protagonists offered a unifying context for almost all disciplines of geology and physical science.

Through storytelling, and illustrated by the papers and photographs McKenzie kept throughout his career as well as recorded interviews.

Dan Peter McKenzie was born on 21 February 1942 in Cheltenham, England.




He first attended a school in Aylesbury, then three public schools in London, most notably Westminster School where he would later state that he was not a particularly academic pupil until the age of 14 or 15 when he began to properly learn mathematics, physics and chemistry.

The publication of his seminal paper on plate tectonics in 1967 had made McKenzie famous in US geoscience circles, but he was virtually unknown in Britain.

Yet despite being offered permanent (and well-paid) full academic posts in America, McKenzie returned to Cambridge University in August 1969 as he felt very English and wanted to work and establish his scientific reputation in his own country.

McKenzie has remained in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, Cambridge for the rest of his academic career, first as Senior Assistant in Research (1969-1973), then as Assistant Director of Research (1973-1979).

Later as Reader in Tectonics (1979-1985), a post specially created for him, and as Professor of Earth Sciences (1985-1996).

Between 1996-2006 he was the Royal Society Research Professor (1996-2006), finally retiring from academic teaching in 2012.

Although other papers on plate tectonics followed, McKenzie had all but given up on the subject by 1972, instead broadening out his studies to trying to understand the principal processes by which continents deform.

His theoretical investigations into lithospheric stretching resulted in McKenzie’s most widely cited paper of them all, “Some remarks on the development of sedimentary basins” (1978).

The ‘McKenzie model’ now forms the basis of most sedimentary basin models that are used by the oil industry.

Other major areas of research include his work on mantle convection and the behaviour of vigorously convecting fluids, and melt generation within the Earth and subsequently the planet Venus.

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Pass it on: New Scientist