Friday Headlines, January 22, 2016
THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES
Planet Nine, or is it Planet X?
Ooops. Fracking causes an earthquake!
For a long time, people have been talking about a mysterious invisible planet orbiting our sun beyond the reaches of Pluto. Some ideas are in the realm of fantasy and most have been based on little to no evidence.
New results provide evidence that there is, in fact, something out there that may be the size of Neptune and is in a distant, elliptical orbit.
The evidence the researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), have is based upon the orbits of some other small icy objects that orbit the sun well beyond the 8 planets we already know. These objects, perhaps about the size of dwarf planets, have known elliptical orbits. But these orbits aren’t quite the correct shape one would expect if they were out there alone. One way to explain the difference is by the presence of another planet. This planet would have to be approximately the size of Neptune.
It’s interesting. Kinda makes me wish I liked math just a little more.
On January 14th, an earthquake occurred near Fox Creek, in Alberta, Canada. This earthquake registered 4.8 on the Richter Scale, which was sufficient to shut down fracking operations. No damages or injuries were reported.
So what’s the big deal then?
There’s been a lot of discussion about how fracking can cause small earthquakes. Most of these earthquakes are so small that they go unnoticed by everyone but those running the seismometers. But this earthquake was big enough to be noticed by ordinary people going about their day. It’s possible that a big enough earthquake could cause damage to property and injuries to people.
Fracking is known to cause earthquakes, such as those in Oklahoma in recent years. These are caused by the fracturing process employed to get natural gas out of deep rocks. But sometimes, fracking can re-activate ancient structures that have been dormant for millennia.
It’s not clear as yet if the large earthquake that happened at Fox Creek was directly caused by fracking or that there was a different cause. Until the cause is identified for certain, fracking operations will stop.