Springfield News-Sun : 2019-02-11
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The beach of a newisland formed by volcanic activity between two existing islands that are part of Tonga is shown in the South Pacific. The newisland’s evolution could hold clues to howwatermight have shaped similar features onMars billions of years ago.
DAN SLAYBACK / VIA THE NEWYORK TIMES
$ % & IN-DEPTHCOVERAGE '() $ Islandmay showhow water shapedMars *+, STUNNING RESEARCH SHOWS that 38 different kinds of harmful fungus may be hidden in your mucus, causing sinus nightmares. Now a new doctor approved treatment dissolves infected mucus to help you breathe easier. % - $ '. ))) *) : 8 ' $ % a thriving bird population.
“The number of birds, the number of bird eggs, the number of baby chicks was astounding,” said Rachel Scudder, chief scientist for the Sea Education Association. “There were places wherewe could not actually get up to the wall of the caldera for fear of stepping on baby chicks.”
The birds included nesting sooty terns and at least one barn owl, Slayback said. The group also found grass and beach morning glories sprouting from soil- like patches on the island’s otherwise barren, rocky surface.
They came across signs of human life, too: Garbage was strewed about parts of the island. Most likely was churned up in 2018 by Tropical Cyclone Gita, though some of the trash might have been left behind by visitors fromnearby islands, according to Jeffrey Wescott, an anthropology professor with the program. The students filled and removed about a dozen bags of trash, most of it plastic bottles.
The volcanic eruption that birthed the island occurred in December 2014, sending ash as high as 30,000 feet into the air and disrupting flights. The island was formed in part when that ash fell back to earth and hardened after mixing with warm water, Garvin said.
When the island was created, theNASAteamthought it might not survive much longer than a decade. (That was part of the reason it could not justify sending a team there.) Now, after sampling rocks from the island, visiting it and watching it weather the elements, the teamexpects it to remain for anywherefromafewdecades to hundreds of years.
“Right now, things look good,” Garvin said. “The island may be cementing itself.” of the two older, uninhabited islands it sits between. (A land bridge connects all three.)
Its most prominent features are a turquoise lake and a croissant-shaped ridge — the remnants of a cone made from hardened ash — that stretches about 400 feet high and about a mile across, Slayback said.
After spending years staring at satellite photographs of the island, he was overwhelmed to finally see the breathtaking landscape up close in early October. He was also eager to get towork.
The satellite photos reveal how the island has eroded over time, but their level of detail is limited without 3-D pointsofreferenceascontext. So, with the help of the students, Slayback roamed the island with a finelytunedGPS device, recording the location of various features visible in the photographs with an accuracy of a fewinches.
Those measurements will allowtheNASAteamtorefine themodelsithadcreatedand more narrowly track erosion going forward, Garvin said.
“Instead of a map with a resolution the size of a chair that you’d sit at your desk in, we have a map of the topography, the three-dimensionality, of this newisland that’s good to the size of a fewfingers,” he said.
With those finer models, scientists can better compare the changing shape of HungaTonga-HungaHa’apai to volcanic shapes and erosion patterns onMars to better understand the degree towhich water was present there and the role it might have played in shaping the landscape.
In addition to helping Slayback with themeasurements, students and faculty collected rock samples and documented the vegetation growing on the island. They were also surprised to find NirajChokshi 1 / 0 % 1 ©2019TheNewYorkTimes $ $ 4 Four years ago, an underwater volcano erupted in the South Pacific Ocean, creating a new island. And NASA took notice.
The island’s evolution could hold clues to how water might have shaped similar features onMars billions of years ago, NASA officials believed, so the space agency began collecting satellite photos to track howthe elements were carving and clawing away at the land.
The images yielded insights into howthe island was eroding, but the story they toldwas limited. NASA could wring more information from those photographs with measurements taken fromthe ground, but James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, could not justify the cost of sending a team. Then an opportunity presented itself.
The Sea Education Association, a study abroad program, was planning to take a group of college students and faculty and staff members to the island, andNASA waswelcome to hitch a ride.
Garvin jumped at the chance, sending along Dan Slayback, a research scientist for NASA who had been workingontheeffort totrack the island’s progression.
Slayback sailed on that trip in fall, finding an island of black rock that was, to his surprise, also teeming with life.
“It was very dramatic,” he said. “Just beautifully dramatic.”
The island, part of Tonga, is about 500 acres in size and about 1,300 miles northeast of New Zealand. It has not yet been named, but is unofficially referred to as HungaTonga-HungaHa’apai, a combination of the names *), %
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Beachmorning glories growon an island formed by volcanic activity four years ago in Tonga, in the South Pacific. DAN SLAYBACK / VIA THE NEWYORK TIMES PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW
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