Fresh satellite images reveal LOST CONTINENTS hidden underneath Antarctica

Ancient lost continents hidden deep beneath Antarctica reveal their secrets

The shard-wooing satellite flew at an altitude of just 255 km, nearly 500 km closer to earth than a typical observation satellite in order to maximize its sensitivity to gravity.

"These gravity images are revolutionizing our ability to study the least understood continent on Earth, Antarctica", co-author Fausto Ferraccioli said in a statement on ESA's website.

Geologists have done pretty well piecing together the history of plate tectonics, or how sections of Earth's crust have pinballed across the globe crashing into one another and pulling apart.

Germany's Kiel University and the British Antarctic Survey published their latest GOCE-based findings this week in the journal Scientific Reports. The video reconstructs the tectonic fallout of Antarctica splitting from the bygone landmass of Gondwana, which was one subsection of the supercontinent Pangaea.

Researchers, using data from the European Space Agency's Gravity Field and Ocean Circulation Explore, were able to map the lithosphere - the tectonically active layer of the Earth that includes the crust and mantle.

"There are six different gradients so we've found a compromise, which describes the curvature of the field but which is easier to look at - it's a synthesis of the six components". During its mission, the craft collected precise measurements of Earth's gravity, which reveal the thickness and density of the planet's lithosphere, a combo of the crust and upper mantle.


"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", noted Ferraccioli. "Some of these regions have clear ties to formerly adjacent continents in the supercontinent Gondwana-such as Australia, India and Africa". These old features are significant as they hold records of Earth's early history.

"Under that is the asthenosphere, a much more plastic, gooey, sphere underneath - and that part is very hot".

With so many variables to consider, predicting how ice melt might progress across Antarctica is a real challenge, so any help scientists can get will be welcome. Data compiled by a now-defunct satellite has unveiled the processes that took place under the thick ice sheet of Antarctica long ago.

This post-glacial rebound - the rise of land masses after the lifting of the huge weight of ice sheets during the last glacial period - is technically known as glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA).

GOCE's new curvature images help unveil the difference in lithospheric structure between the dense craton composite of East Antarctica and the rift system of West Antarctica.

The project runs until the summer 2020, and a preliminary 3D model of the Earth including Antarctica will be showcased to the broader science community at the 3D Earth Science Meeting 2019 in Dublin next March.

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