Thursday, November 23, 2017

Expeditions planned to explore black holes in Russian arctic

A team of scientists from research institutes in Moscow, Tyumen and Yekaterinburg are preparing to make two separate expeditions to the Yamal funnels in 2015 to investigate their bizarre geological features.

The Yamal funnels were first discovered earlier in the summer by helicopter pilots working on private contracts for local businesses. An initial geological team was dispatched to the funnels and estimated their depth to be 328 feet deep by 164 feet wide. Scientific crews are now interested in investigating the origin of the funnels, ITAR-TASS reports.

"The main purpose of the expedition: to understand the formation of craters--how unique this natural phenomenon [is] and whether it could occur again," Russian Arctic Center Director Vladimir Pushkar, according to ITAR-TASS. "Unfortunately, this year we have not been able to study them carefully. Was possible to establish that these funnels [are of a] natural origin. But that could cause these natural phenomena for us remains a mystery."

Current speculative theories for the formation of the funnels attribute their formation to a warming of frozen rocks which constitute the foundation of the Yamal region.

"Yamal begun to thaw frozen rock," Vladimir Melnikov, the chairman of the Tyumen scientific community in the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said, ITAR-TASS reports. "Mostly they became less dense and through them found a way shale gas, which is found all over the continental shelf of the Subarctic. Presumably, this was the reason for the formation of the craters."

The first of the two expeditions to the Yamal funnels is scheduled between March and April 2015, with a follow-up visit to occur in July and August. During the trips, scientists will explore the bottom of the funnels and will collect samples of soil for analysis. Another component of the proposed research involves analyzing photos of the funnels taken from outer space.

"In the summer of the funnel will be filled with melt water, so they will explore the place around them," Pushkar said, according to ITAR-TASS. "By this time the ground thaws, and we'll be able to explore the area near the craters. On the organization of expeditions from various sources of funding will be allocated several million rubles. Exact amounts will be known in early 2015."

Meanwhile, the delegation of Russian scientists organizing the expeditions are considering proposals from members of the broader European scientific community to accompany the researchers on the trips into the Yamal funnels.