The European Space Agency (ESA) has found remains of lost continents that have been hidden under Antarctica for millions of years.
Satellite images show a timeline of the old landmasses that are buried 1.6 km below the ice-cold continent.
Scientists said the snapshots shed a new light on Antarctica, the least understood continent on Earth & # 39 ;.
They used data from the long Gravity field and Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), which crashed into the earth after it had run out of fuel in 2013.
While the satellite has been out of business for five years, scientists are still pouring on the amount of data it collected on Earth's gravity.
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Their research allowed them to follow the hidden tectonic shifts over the past 200 million years, providing new insights into how Antarctica formed. Pictured on the left is the position of tectonics 180 million years ago, while on the right the plates show 10 million years ago
A team of scientists used GOCE measurements to map the movements of the earth's plates under Antarctica.
Their research allowed them to follow the hidden tectonic shifts over the past 200 million years, providing new insights into how Antarctica formed.
These gravitational images revolutionize our ability to study the least-understood continent on Earth: Antarctica & # 39; said co-author Fausto Ferraccioli, science leader of geology and geophysics at the British Antarctic Survey.
In East Antarctica we see an exciting mosaic of geological features that reveal fundamental similarities and differences between the Earth's crust under Antarctica and other continents to which it was connected up to 160 million years ago. & # 39;
Scientists combined the GOCE measurements with seismological data to make 3D maps of the Earth's lithosphere.
The lithosphere consists of the earth's crust and the molten mantle below the earth's surface, and includes mountain ranges, ocean deposits and rocky areas called cratons.
A team of scientists used GOCE measurements to map the movements of the earth's plates under Antarctica
Cratons are the remains of ancient continents that are embedded in continents as we know them today.
The new lectures highlight the break-up of Gondwana, a long-gone & supercontinent & # 39; that sheltered what is now Antarctica.
While the landmass split 130 million years ago, the map shows that Antarctica and Australia remained connected only 55 million years ago.
The study also revealed that West Antarctica has a thinner crust than East Antarctica, which has a "family resemblance to Australia and India & # 39;
The study showed that West Antarctica (green) has a thinner crust than East Antarctica (blue), which has a family similarity with Australia and India & # 39;
WHAT IS ESA & # 39; S GOCE SATELLITE?
The Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) probe from the European Space Agency (ESA) followed the gravitational pull of the Earth.
It circled around our planet for more than four years, from March 2009 to November 2013.
In that period it was within 140 miles of the Earth's surface – unusually low for a satellite – to maximize the accuracy of its instruments.
The European Space Agency (ESA) claims that one of its slim research satellites, the & # 39; Ferrari or space & # 39; called, somewhere in the South Atlantic has dropped
Scientists are still scanning GOCE data today to learn more about processes that occur on Earth.
In addition, the measurements are used to improve estimates of polar ice sheet thickness and its movement.
On October 21, 2013, the mission came to a natural end when the fuel ran out.
Three weeks later, on November 11, the satellite collapsed in the lower atmosphere.
Scientists hope to use their findings to investigate how the geology and continental structure of Antarctica influences the melting of ice.
GOCE mission researcher Roger Haagmans said: "It is exciting to see that direct use of gravity gradients, measured for the first time with GOCE, leads to a fresh, independent view of the earth – even under a thick layer of ice. .
It also gives a picture of how continents were possibly connected in the past before they separated because of the movement of the plates. & # 39;
Space emission: GOCE was launched in 2009 to map variations in earth's gravity with unprecedented accuracy