Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Geologists drill into fossil magma chamber deep under the ocean

24.04.2006


International collaboration brings up first samples of hard rock called gabbro in intact ocean crust



Scientists aboard the research drilling ship JOIDES Resolution have, for the first time, drilled into a fossil magma chamber under intact ocean crust. There, 1.4 kilometers beneath the sea floor, they have recovered samples of gabbro: a hard, black rock that forms when molten magma is trapped beneath Earth’s surface and cools slowly.
The scientists, affiliated with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), published their findings on April 20 in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science.

Although gabbro has been sampled elsewhere in the oceans where faulting and tectonic movements have brought it closer to the seafloor, this is the first time gabbro has been recovered from intact ocean crust.



The borehole into the magma chamber took nearly five months to drill, and required the use of twenty-five hardened steel and tungsten carbide drill bits. Getting there "is a rare opportunity to calibrate geophysical measurements with direct observations of real rocks," said geophysicist Doug Wilson of the University of California at Santa Barbara, lead author on the Science Express paper. "Finding the right place to drill was probably the key to this success."

Wilson and his IODP colleagues found that place by identifying a region of the Pacific Ocean that formed some 15 million years ago when the East Pacific Rise was spreading at a "superfast" rate of more than 200 millimeters per year, faster than any mid-ocean ridge on Earth today.

"We planned to test the idea that magma chambers should be closest to the Earth’s surface in crust formed at the fastest spreading rate," said Wilson.

"These results confirm ideas about the way in which fast-spreading oceanic crust is built," said Jamie Allan, IODP program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation, which co-funds the program. "This new understanding opens the way to understanding the origin of oceanic crust, which we can best do by deep drilling."

"We’ve accomplished a major goal scientists have pursued for more than 40 years," agreed geologist Damon Teagle of the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, a co-chief scientist of the drilling expedition. "Our research will ultimately help answer an important question: how is new ocean crust formed?"

The formation of ocean crust is a key process in the cycle of plate tectonics, which constantly repaves the surface of the planet, builds mountains, and leads to earthquakes and volcanoes.

"Sampling a deep fossil magma chamber will allow us to compare its composition to overlying lavas," said expedition co-chief scientist Jeff Alt of the University of Michigan. "It will help explain whether ocean crust, which is about six- to seven- kilometers thick, is formed from one magma chamber or from a series of stacked magma lenses. The size and geometry of these lenses affect the composition and structure of the ocean crust, and circulation of seawater through the crust."

Such circulation leads to the formation of spectacular hydrothermal "black-smoker" vents--oases that support exotic life forms in the deep ocean.

IODP is an international marine research drilling program dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth, the deep biosphere, climate change, and Earth processes by monitoring and sampling sub-seafloor environments.

IODP is supported by two lead agencies, the U.S. National Science Foundation and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. U.S.-sponsored drilling operations are conducted by the JOI Alliance, comprised of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Texas A & M University Research Foundation, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New research unlocks forests' potential in climate change mitigation
21.04.2017 | Clemson University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>