Science news: the reversal of Earth’s magnetic poles, life from small organic molecules, electrical sparks on Mars, craters of gas blowouts in the Russian permafrost

One of the craters. Photo: Evgeny Chuvilin

Recent discoveries about our planet, its rocks, and other “stone” topics

(Photo above) With a drone, scientists have investigated a new crater in the Russian Arctic, thought to be the remnant of a powerful gas blowout. They studied the cone-shaped top where ejecta was thrown from, the outer parts of the heaving mound, and the permafrost underground of the hole with 25 m width and 15 m depth

A kauri tree log from Ngāwhā, New Zealand. Photo: Nelson ParkerA dramatic turning point in Earth’s history, laced with electrical storms, widespread auroras, and cosmic radiation, was triggered by the reversal of Earth’s magnetic poles and changing solar winds some 42,000 years ago. New findings were made possible with ancient New Zealand kauri trees, which had been preserved in sediments for over 40,000 years

3.5 billion-year-old barite (bottom) with fossilized microbial mat (top) from the Dresser Formation in NW Australia. Photo: Helge MissbachA widely accepted hypothesis says that the earliest life forms used small organic molecules as building materials and energy sources. In 3.5 billion-year-old rocks, researchers have now detected such molecules and gases stemming from archaic hydrothermal vents and trapped

The Curiosity rover, currently exploring Mars, and the recently landed Perseverence, face little chance of being hit by lightning. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a> Viking landers on orbiters Mars have detected silts, clays, wind-blown bedforms, and dust devils, raising questions about potential electrical activity. Experiments in lab chambers on Earth suggest that such sparks are likely to be only small and pose little danger to missions to the red planet

(23.02.2021, USA: 92.23.2021)