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Journey to the center of the earth: Discovery sheds light on mantle formation
Date:4/11/2008

HOUSTON, April 10, 2008 Uncovering a rare, two-billion-year-old window into the Earths mantle, a University of Houston professor and his team have found our planets geological history is more complex than previously thought.

Jonathan Snow, assistant professor of geosciences at UH, led a team of researchers in a North Pole expedition, resulting in a discovery that could shed new light on the mantle, the vast layer that lies beneath the planets outer crust. These findings are described in a paper titled Ancient, highly heterogeneous mantle beneath Gakkel Ridge, Arctic Ocean, appearing recently in Nature, the weekly scientific journal for biological and physical sciences research.

These two-billion-year-old rocks that time forgot were found along the bottom of the Arctic Ocean floor, unearthed during research voyages in 2001 and 2004 to the Gakkel Ridge, an approximately 1,000-mile-long underwater mountain range between Greenland and Siberia. This massive underwater mountain range forms the border between the North American and Eurasian plates beneath the Arctic Ocean, where the two plates diverge.

These were the first major expeditions ever undertaken to the Gakkel Ridge, and these latest published findings are the fruit of several years of research and millions of dollars spent to retrieve and analyze these rocks.

The mantle, the rock layer that comprises about 70 percent of the Earths mass, sits several miles below the planets surface. Mid-ocean ridges like Gakkel, where mantle rock is slowly pushing upward to form new volcanic crust as the tectonic plates slowly move apart, is one place geologists look for clues about the mantle. Gakkel Ridge is unique because it features at some locations the least volcanic activity and most mantle exposure ever discovered on a mid-ocean ridge, allowing Snow and his colleagues to recover many mantle samples.

I just about fell off my chair, Snow said.
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Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert  

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