Friday Headlines: September 9, 2016

Friday Headlines, September 9, 2016

THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES

Today’s round-up:

Oklahoma Earthquake

Finding Philae

To Bennu and Back

Oklahoma Just Experienced Its Largest Earthquake on Record

If we take a peek at the United States Geological Survey’s earthquake hazards map, you’ll see that Oklahoma is basically empty of hazards.

Earthquake hazards in the United States. Credit: USGS

Earthquake hazards in the United States. Credit: USGS

Yet, this week, Oklahoma experienced a substantial earthquake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale.

How does this work?

It turns out this earthquake was man-made. The cause is the injection of wastewater deep into the earth, well below the aquifers supplying people with drinking water. This wastewater comes from drilling for oil and other petroleum products. Often with oil or gas, water also comes up through the wells. This water is toxic and it is disposed by putting it back in the Earth.

However, the pressure of this water being forced into the Earth can activate hidden and formerly inactive faults. This results in earthquakes like the ones that are now common in Oklahoma.

Read more about this earthquake here.

Read more about wastewater induced earthquakes here.

Philae found!

A year or so ago, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe arrived at its destination comet for study. Upon it’s arrival, Rosetta sent a tiny lander, Philae, to study the surface of the Comet.

Philae landed successfully, but clearly had not landed in a good place. Within a few days, it was clear that Philae landed in a shadow and would not have the power to do the study functions that it was sent to do.

Then the investigation began. Where did Philae land?

This week, Rosetta finally caught a glimpse of it. Poor tiny Philae in a giant shadow.

Philae and its shadow. Credit: ESA

Philae and its shadow. Credit: ESA

A close up reveals that Philae is tucked in among a lot of large boulders.

Close up of Philae. Credit: ESA

Close up of Philae. Credit: ESA

At least we know where Philae is now, but it remains unlikely that Philae will be able to complete its mission.

So the big news from NASA this week is the launch of OSIRIS-REx: Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer.

OSIRIS-REx is on its way to the asteroid called Bennu. Its purpose is geological. Once it arrives at Bennu, it will collect a small soil sample (called ‘regolith’ in geology) and return it to Earth for study.

Last night (September 8, 2016), OSIRIS-REx successfully launched. It is expected to reach the asteroid in 2018 and return to Earth in 2023.

Watch a video of the successful liftoff on YouTube here.

While you’re watching this video, please pay attention to the reference to the television series Star Trek, which aired for the first time 50 years ago on September 8, 1966. Happy 50th Star Trek!

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