Scientists have detected long-lost continents hidden under Antarctica’s ice sheets using data from a satellite that has been dead for five years.
The new research, published in Scientific Reports, sheds light on the murky geological history of Antarctica over the past 200 million years, and condenses it in this 24-second animation. The video reconstructs the tectonic fallout of Antarctica splitting from the bygone landmass of Gondwana, which was one subsection of the supercontinent Pangaea. Beginning around 180 million years ago, the core landmasses of Antarctica, India, and Australia broke off from Gondwana, and slowly shifted to their current locations.
The visualization is based on observations from the Gravity field and Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite that operated in orbit from 2009 to 2013. For those four years, the satellite mapped out Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented precision, before it was deliberately destroyed in atmospheric reentry. Since then scientists have combed over its measurements to create maps of Earth’s lithosphere, the tectonically active layer that includes the planet’s crust and outer mantle.
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