– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: A California scientist has discovered that Mars has at least two plate tectonics, contrary to popular belief that the Red Planet is too small, and its interior too cold, to host plate tectonic processes, his University announced yesterday.
An Yin, a planetary geologist and professor of Earth and space sciences at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), has been studying the surface of Mars for years and recently analyzed about 100 satellite images taken by NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft and the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
“When I studied the satellite images from Mars, many of the features looked very much like fault systems I have seen in the Himalayas and Tibet, and in California as well, including the geomorphology,” Yin said yesterday. He previously conducted geologic research in the Himalayas and Tibet, where two of the Earth’s seven major plates divide.
Yin said he found a very smooth, flat side of a canyon wall which can only be generated by a fault and a steep cliff comparable to cliffs in California’s Death Valley, which are also generated by a fault. The Red Planet has a linear volcanic zone, which is a typical product of plate tectonics.
But the surface of Mars is also home to Valles Marineris, a system of canyons that runs along the Martian surface and is more than 4,000 kilometers long, making it one of the largest canyons in the Solar System. Scientists have long been in disagreement about how the canyons formed, but Yin said his new evidence shows Mars has at least two plate tectonics which are divided by Valles Marineris.
“I saw that the idea that it is just a big crack that opened up is incorrect,” Yin said. “It is really a plate boundary, with horizontal motion. That is kind of shocking, but the evidence is quite clear. The shell is broken and is moving horizontally over a long distance. It is very similar to the Earth’s Dead Sea fault system, which has also opened up and is moving horizontally.”
Yin said the two plate tectonics have moved approximately 150km horizontally relative to each other. He pointed out that California’s San Andreas Fault, which is over the intersection of two plates, has moved about twice as much – but they are comparable because Earth is about twice the size of Mars.
The planetary geologist, who refers to the two plate tectonics as Valles Marineris North and Valles Marineris South, said the small size of Mars may explain why there are only two plates. “Earth has a very broken ‘egg shell,’ so its surface has many plates; Mars’ is slightly broken and may be on the way to becoming very broken, except its pace is very slow due to its small size and, thus, less thermal energy to drive it,” he explained.
The discovery of plate tectonics also suggests the Red Planet may experience so-called “marsquakes”, and this adds further support to evidence released earlier this year that a powerful marsquake hit the Cerberus region of the planet in recent history. “I think the fault is probably still active, but not every day. It wakes up every once in a while, over a very long duration – perhaps every million years or more,” Yin said.
Earlier this year, earthquake geologist Gerald Roberts at Birkbeck, an institution of the University of London, said there is evidence that our planetary neighbor may have experienced marsquakes in the recent past. He and his team also analyzed imagery from HiRISE and examined boulders along a fault system known as Cerberus Fossae, which cuts across a lava surface on Mars.
Roberts said the images showed boulders that ranged from 2 to 20 meters (6.5 to 65 feet) in diameter, which had fallen in avalanches from cliffs. The size and number of boulders decreased over a radius of 100kms (62 miles) centered at a point along the Cerberus Fossae faults.
“This is consistent with the hypothesis that boulders had been mobilized by ground-shaking, and that the severity of the ground-shaking decreased away from the epicenters of marsquakes,” Roberts said in February. He estimated that the magnitude of the marsquakes may have been greater than 7 on the Richter scale.
The scientists said the marsquake likely happened in recent history, within the last few per cent of the Red Planet’s 4.5 billion year history, but it is impossible to say exactly when. The British scientists said it is possible that large magnitude quake activity is still occurring on Mars, but it will be difficult to tell until seismographs are taken to Mars.
For Yin, there is still more work to do, as he is unsure how far beneath the surface the two plates are located. “I don’t quite understand why the plates are moving with such a large magnitude or what the rate of movement is; maybe Mars has a different form of plate tectonics,” he said. “The rate is much slower than on Earth.”
— Phuket Gazette Editors
Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home
PHOTO: Lost In Space? Or lost in reality? Maybe someone will fall for it – Lost in Space’s Jupiter 2
The Nigerians have somewhat of a reputation for scams and scammers. Who hasn’t received an email offering loads of cash in return for your bank account and a moderate deposit? But this letter takes the famous Nigerian Scam to another level. Or perhaps it’s true (we don’t think so…)?
Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde – Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555, Misau Street, PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA
Dear Mr. Sir,
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL
I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.
In the 14 years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.
Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.
Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.
Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-XXXX only.
Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis
Thousands of rescue workers are searching for survivors from the fury of Typhoon Hagibis, two days after the storm slammed into Japan. As of the time of this post, the storm had killed at least 35 people.
(Video from Sky News below…)
Hagibis crashed into the country Saturday evening, but brought hours of torrential rains before it made landfall, causing landslides and filling rivers until they burst their banks.
More than 110,000 rescuers, including 31,000 troops, worked through the night searching for people trapped by the disaster. Local media report at least 35 people have been killed, with the Kyodo news agency reporting nearly 20 people were missing. Government figures from Sunday night were lower, though updates were expected throughout today.
While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres per hours (134 miles per hour), it was the heavy rains that caused most damage, with 21 rivers bursting their banks.
In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. Military and fire department helicopters winched survivors from roofs and balconies in several locations, but in Fukushima one operation went tragically awry when a woman died after falling while being rescued.
The destruction forced the Rugby World Cup being hosted by Japan to cancel several games, but the “Brave Blossoms”, as the national team is known, lifted spirits with a stunning 28-21 victory over Scotland on Sunday that put them into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time.
Rescue efforts have been continuing this morning, with local television showing soldiers rowing a rubber rescue dingy through floodwaters in Fukushima, while elsewhere workers removed dirt with a digger.
The death toll mounted throughout yesterday as bodies were recovered from flooded homes and cars, buildings caught in landslides, and swollen rivers.
The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least five Chinese crew members aboard a boat that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night.
As of this morning, some 57,500 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.
But most subway trains have resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse PHOTOS: AFP
Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia
From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.
Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.
Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.
A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.
“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”
And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.
“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.
The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.
While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.
Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.
But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.
There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.
“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.
As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.
“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”
Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.
And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.
“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.
Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.
But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.
“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse
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