European scientists just unearthed a major piece of geologic history — data from a long-retired satellite revealed ancient landmasses hidden beneath Antarctica.
The European Space Agency’s Gravity field and Ocean Circulation Explorer satellite was retired five years ago, but while it was running it produced maps of the how the Earth’s gravitational field varies around the globe.
By combining that data with seismological reports, geologists at Germany’s Kiel University were able to create 3D maps of the previously-unexamined crust beneath Antarctica’s ice.
According to the new research, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports on Monday, the fractured layers of crust surrounding Antarctica resemble the crust on various coastlines around the world. That suggests that those coastlines paired up when all the continents were joined as Pangaea.
Eastern Antarctica shows similarities to the geology of Australia and India, but is notably different from the crust beneath the western portion of Antarctica, which would have been connected to different coastlines. This discrepancy gives scientists a better idea of how all the continental pieces once fit together.
We’re just gonna come out and say it: this ain’t Atlantis. While there are remnants of seismic activity — the endless destruction and recycling of the Earth’s crust as tectonic plates shift and collide among each other — there’s nothing quite so mythical about this news.
No, this is the “very helpful to geologists as they try to better understand our world” type of discovery, not the “secret techno-utopia hidden beneath the sea” type — though that would admittedly be way more fun.
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