July 26, 2010

What Did We Do Before Google?

by Heather Falconer

We’ve all had the thought on occasion. How, exactly, did we function before Google? (Some of us even marvel at how much we were able to accomplish before the internet.) And it seems that this ubiquitous entity has once again shown how useful it can be — this time in the realm of astronomy and earth science research.

Researchers have been using the image database of Google Earth as a new information source for finding incidences of meteorite impact…and in August of 2008 found a fairly recent one in southwestern Egypt. The 45-meter-wide crater was likely caused in the last few thousand years by a fast moving iron meteorite and in all likelihood was witnessed by ancient Egyptian civilization. The spoke-like rays of soil from the impact have seemingly remained intact — or, at least, enough so that were visible through Google’s satellite images. Further research has shown that the crater appears in satellite images in the early 1970s.

You can see the team’s Materials and Methods online, or read the full paper in the July 22, 2010 issue of Science. To view the crater on Google Earth, the coordinates are 26º05?15?E    22º01?05?N.

Heather Falconer

Written by

Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.