Geology

New research findings may help refine the accepted models used by earth scientists over the past 30 years to describe the ways in which continents clash to form the Earth's landscape.

Eric Calais, an associate professor of geophysics at Purdue University, in collaboration with Ming Wang and Zenghang Shen from the Institute for Geology and Earthquake Science in China, used global positioning systems to record the precise movements of hundreds of points on the continent of Asia over a 10-year period.

A greenhouse gas that has become the bane of modern society may have saved Earth from completely freezing over early in the planet's history, according to the first detailed laboratory analysis of the world's oldest sedimentary rocks.

Scientists have for years theorized that high concentrations of greenhouse gases could have helped Earth avoid global freezing in its youth by allowing the atmosphere to retain more heat than it lost.

Africa is being torn apart. And as Ethiopia's rift valley grows slowly wider, an international team of scientists is taking a unique opportunity to plot the progress of continents on the move.

The 28-strong team is led by University of Leeds geophysicist Dr Tim Wright, who has secured a £2.5 million grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to study the seismic events taking place in the remote Afar desert of Northern Ethiopia.

It's here that two mighty shelves of continental crust, the African and Arabian plates, meet -- and are tearing the landscape apart.


3D view of satellite radar measurements of how the ground moved in September 2005.

The first scientific report into the causes and impact of Lusi, the Indonesian mud volcano, reveals that the 2006 eruption will continue to erupt and spew out between 7,000 and 150,000 cubic metres of mud a day for months, if not years to come, leaving at least 10 km2 around the volcano vent uninhabitable for years and over 11,000 people permanently displaced.

The paper by a Durham University-led team and published in the February issue of GSA Today1, reveals that the eruption was almost certainly manmade and caused by the drilling of a nearby exploratory borehole2 looking for gas, reinforcing the possible explanation in a UN report3 from July last year.


Image of a gryphon, which occur around the site of a mud volcano.

ESA's Mars Express has obtained images of the Cydonia region, site of the famous 'Face on Mars.' The High Resolution Stereo Camera photos include some of the most spectacular views of the Red Planet ever.

After multiple attempts to image the Cydonia region from April 2004 until July 2006 were frustrated by altitude and atmospheric dust and haze, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express finally obtained, on 22 July, a series of images that show the famous 'face' on Mars in unprecedented detail.

The data were gathered during orbit 3253 over the Cydonia region, with a ground resolution of approximately 13.7 metres per pixel. Cydonia lies at approximately 40.75° North and 350.54° East.

These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, show the Galle Crater, an impact crater located on the eastern rim of the Argyre Planitia impact basin on Mars.

The HRSC obtained these images during orbits 445, 2383, 2438, 2460 and 2493 with a ground resolution ranging between 10-20 metres per pixel, depending on location within the image strip.

The images show Crater Galle lying to the east of the Argyre Planitia impact basin and south west of the Wirtz and Helmholtz craters, at 51° South and 329° East.

The images of the 230 km diameter impact crater are mosaics created from five individual HRSC nadir and colour strips, each tens of kilometres wide.