METEORITE IMPACTS FORMED CONTINENTS
AN ENORMOUS SUBSURFACE CRATER RECENTLY DISCOVERED UNDER THE LANDMASS OF NORTH AMERICA is the first physical evidence to support a theory that the earth’s continents were formed by a bombardmont of giant meteorites. The crater, with its concentric rings spreading out like ripples, measures 1,700 miles in diameter—from what is now Hudson Bay in the north to the Great Lakes in the south.
The crater was found by a group of scientists who discovered ripples of gravity anomalies” while piecing together a gravity map of the continent. They estimate that 3.9 billion to 4 billion years ago, when debris from the formation of the solar system was still floating around in space, a meteorite the size of Delaware struck the earth, forming the crater and triggering millions of years of volcanic activity that then disgorged the granitic shield of the continent and covered the crater itself. During that same period, the earth’s moon and some of the neighboring planets— Mercury, Mars and the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn—were bombarded by massive hunks of space material. But the impacts did not trigger the same reactions that occurred on earth, and the craters still remain on the surfaces of these bodies.
THE IMPACT THEORY is consistent with what is known about plate tectonics and continental drift; in fact, it complements the theory of tectonics and provides a much needed explanation of how the granite-rock continents were created if the earth was originally covered by water and had a crust made entirely of basaltic material. To find out whether all the continents were formed in this manner, the scientists will next make additional gravity maps and look for more craters
HUGE NEW AUSTRALIAN MINE
SHAKES DIAMOND MARKET
AUSTRALIA will become major force in the world diamond market when mining begins soon at a recently discovered deposit in the northwestern part of the country. Experts estimate that the lode—one of the biggest on earth—contains as much as 450 million carats of diamonds. The mine could add 20 million carats to the 50 million carats produced worldwide each year. South Africa, Zaire and the Soviet Union now supply most of the world’s diamonds; Australia has produced diamonds only on a small scale. Market experts predict that the mine will have an enormous impact—especially since the Australian government intends to market the gems itself rather than through De Beers, the South Africa-based cartel that virtually dominates the world trade. Estimates of the mine’s annual yield run as high as $700 million.
The SUN is getting COLDER!
An astronomer who has been investigating the effects of solar activity on the earth’s climate has discovered that the sun is cooling off—it is about one tenth of one per cent cooler now than it was just 20 years ago. (1962)
But this cooling trend will soon reverse itself, says Ron Gilliland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado. The sun cools off and warms up in 76-year cycles, with the next warming trend peaking in the year 2010. The same trend occurs on a smaller scale in 11-year cycles. Gilliland. has also observed and reported that the sun’s radius shrinks and expands in similar cycles.
As small as the changes are in the sun’s temperature, they definitely do have an effect on conditions here on earth. According to Gilliland, the relatively cool global temperatures of the past 20 years are due to the sun’s cooling, which counteracted the warming that should have accompanied the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL TELESCOPE
A team of scientists at the KITT PEAK NATIONAL OBSERVATORY
in Tucson, Arizona, is developing a telescope that consists of several large parabolic mirrors with a combined light-gathering power equivalent to that of a single mirror 50 feet across. The telescope will be six times more powerful than the Russian 20-inch telescope and nine times more powerful than the 200-inch tele-scope at the Palomar Observatory in California. In fact, it will have a light- collect-ing area double that of the world’s 20 largest telescopes combined.
When it is constructed, the telescope will not only be able to focus on distant galaxies but will allow astronomers to study them in detail as well, even as they are forming. The telescope will also enable astronomers to observe stars and their planetary systems as they are created out of gas and dust.
FARTHEST, BRIGHTEST OBJECT.
A team of astronomers in Australia has discovered a quasar that shines with the light of 100 million suns and is 13 billion light-years from earth. Of all the known objects in the universe, this quasar—known as PKS 2000-330 is the farthest from earth and the brightest. It is traveling away from earth at almost the speed of light.
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