The European Space Agency (ESA) has released groundbreaking satellite images that reveal a whole new set of information about the ancient continents that went back 180 million years ago. According to ESA, these masses are only 1.6 kilometers below Antarctica, but they have never been traced before. The snaps reveal new information about Antarctica, the sixth and "least understood continent on earth," the scientists claimed.
Fausto Ferraccioli, science leader of geology and geophysics at the British Antarctic Survey, said: "These gravitational images are changing our ability to study the least understood continent on Earth: Antarctica.
"In Eastern Antarctica, we see an exciting mosaic of geological features revealing fundamental similarities and differences between the Earth's crust under Antarctica and other continents that it had been associated with up to 160 million years ago."
Among the groundbreaking discoveries that ESA has made, there is new information about Gondwana, a supercontinent that accommodated what is now Antarctica.
According to ESA, Antarctica and Australia remained connected only 55 million years ago, despite the splitting of the land mass about 130 years ago.
ESA could also reveal that West Antarctica has a thinner crust than East Antarctica.
This discovery connects this side of the southern icy continent with Australia and India, because they share the kind of crust.
ESA used vital data collected by the Gravity and Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) field, the first ESA satellite to chart Earth's gravitational field from 2009 to 2013 when it plunged to Earth after it was fuel-free.
The images helped scientists to map the movements of the earth's plates under Antartica.
Then they combined the measurements with seismological data to make 3D maps of the lithosphere of our planet, the so-called crust and molten boiling mantle of the earth.
But these findings can not only help to investigate Antarctica, but also to have a "fresh" look at the earth.
GOCE mission researcher Roger Haagmans said: "It is exciting to see that direct use of gravity gradients, measured for the first time with GOCE, leads to a fresh, independent view of the earth – even under a thick layer of ice.
"It also gives a picture of how continents were possibly connected in the past before they fell apart as a result of plate movement."