Geologists need view from orbit

Scientists from the Belarusian State University’s Geography Department have not especially planned the release of their Cosmo-Geological Methods of Finding Mineral Deposits monograph to coincide with the imminent launch of the Belarusian satellite but view it as a good sign. The thesis is a guide for geologists using satellite photographs of the Earth
By Denis Dovlatov

“We’ve studied the remote sensing systems of the Belarusian craft, so we know that the data it will gather will prove useful in studying the Earth’s depths, in the search for mineral resources,” explains the Head of the Belarusian State University’s Dynamic Geology Department, Doctor of Geographic Sciences, Professor Valery Gubin. “Like the best foreign satellites, the Belarusian craft has two removable systems: providing 2m and 10m resolution.” 

Our Belarusian geologists already have experience of working with space data, analysing geological sites photographed by various satellites. Some photos show ‘dislocation by glacier’ — whereby the movement of ancient glaciers significantly changed the face of the Earth, forming long valleys in which sand and gravel accumulated. Glaciers often broke rocks, transporting them great distances — now called ‘erratic blocks’. These can be seen easily from space and are of great interest to geologists. 

Analysis of space data also helps in the search for oil deposits, since those immense glaciers not only pushed rocks but also pressed hydrocarbons from the depths — distributing them across vast areas. The Pripyat oil and gas fields are the result of glacial movement, so it’s reasonable to suppose that further reserves may yet be discovered.

A BSU report on the cosmo-geological search for mineral resources was presented to scientists from the National Academy of Sciences’ United Institute of Informatics Problems, which has played a leading role in creating the Belarusian remote sensing system. Simultaneously, the BSU reported on promising sites which may yield mineral deposits (in Belarusian Poozerie).

Naturally, the main aim of the satellite is not to search for deposits but to gain a true aerial view of the country. This will aid in compiling new geological maps (the previous pictures — taken over 40 years ago — used an obsolete approach). Moreover, the satellite will allow cosmic monitoring of the geological environment: potassium salt mining areas can experience subsidence over mines, marshes are being formed, and we do have some seismic activity. Territories situated close to large pits also deserve attention, as the level of ground water is affected and water erosion is common. 

“Space geology offers a new approach to studying the Earth’s crust and searching for mineral deposits,” says Prof. Gubin. “We study territory, viewing sites of interest from a practical and scientific point of view. For example, our shots depict large features on the Earth’s crust — formed about 4 billion years ago: ‘nuclears’. They can have a diameter of several hundred kilometres and are only noticeable from space. We’ve discovered a similar Polesie ring structure in the south of the country, with the help of space pictures. It needs thorough study as, about 300m years ago, it influenced the formation of the Pripyat paleorift, playing an important role in the formation of sites which are now promising sources of oil.”

Other areas due to be studied are the Turov Depression (in the Pripyat Graben), which is difficult to penetrate with geo-physical equipment due to its marshes. The Orsha Depression, the suture zone of the Pripyat Graben and Ukrainian Shield are also to be studied, in addition to depths in the north of the country. Many geological objects are likely to reveal their secrets after being photographed from space. 
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