Archive for the ‘Earth Science’ Category
Lightning storms on Saturn and Jupiter could create carbon soot that might be compressed into diamonds as it falls through the atmosphere.
Scientists theorise that lightning zaps molecules of methane in the upper atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, liberating carbon atoms. These atoms then stick onto each other, forming larger particles of carbon soot (which the Cassini spacecraft may have spotted in dark storm clouds on Saturn). As the soot particles slowly float down through ever-denser layers of gaseous and liquid hydrogen towards the planets’ rocky cores, they experience ever greater pressures and temperatures. The soot is compressed into graphite, and then into solid diamonds before reaching a temperature of about 8,000 °C, when the diamond melts, forming liquid diamond raindrops.
Inside Saturn, the conditions are right for diamond ‘hail’ to form, beginning at a depth of about 6,000 kilometres into the atmosphere and extending for another 30,000 km below that. If you had a robot there, it would sit there and collect diamonds raining down. Learn more here.
The Ring of Fire is an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. As shown by the planet’s earthquakes since 1898:
Pangea was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras, forming about 300 million years ago. It began to break apart around 200 million years ago. The single global ocean which surrounded Pangaea is accordingly named Panthalassa. Here it is with current international borders overlaid:
Although 75% of the planet is a relatively unchanging ocean of blue, the remaining 25% of Earth’s surface is a dynamic green.
There are more than 200 volcanoes currently covered by ice and snow, but researchers point out that observing eruptions of snow-covered volcanoes is difficult due to the typical remoteness of the sites.
To learn more they did some real-time experiments, melting over 300 kg of lava and pouring it over ice:
The research found that lava didn’t always just melt through the ice, and flow under the surface. When lava was poured directly onto densely packed ice, the lava was able to flow over the simulated glacier at rates of tens of centimeters a second, lubricated by a layer of steam. Learn more here.
Earth’s landmasses were not always what they are today. Continents formed as Earth’s crustal plates shifted and collided over long periods of time. This video shows how today’s continents are thought to have evolved over the last 600 million years, and where they’ll end up in the next 100 million years.
More than half of all the world’s volcanoes (over 450) are found in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’. This area forms a circle stretching down the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska in the north, through the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the USA, to the Andes mountains of South America. It loops back around the western side of the Pacific, up through New Zealand, Indonesia and Japan.
Unsurprisingly the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ also experiences lots of earthquakes.
The image above, which plots earthquakes of magnitudes 4.0 or greater from 1898 onwards, shows just how active our planet is. The map’s data is valid up until 2003, but the 105-year period it covers includes 203,186 earthquakes. Learn more here.
Desert sun overhead, volcanic forces beneath your feet, and the average year-round temperature is 34°C (93°F)! This is Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, where the ground springs forth with lava and hot mineral springs that evaporate and leave salt formations behind.