Scientists Discover New Details About Yellowstone With A Giant Flying Electromagnet

Scientists at Virginia Tech and U.S. Geological Survey used an 80-foot diameter electromagnet to survey the subsurface of the Yellowstone National Park and learn more about the water system, a press release said. 

The Yellowstone National Park is a geologic feature that barely needs an introduction. Millions of visitors travel to this site every year to see bubbling mud cauldrons, crystal clear waters, and the brilliant colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring. The towering eruptions of water at the Old Faithful are also a huge attraction but also add intrigue to the visit when one wonders where does the water come from? Probing the subsurface 

“Our knowledge of Yellowstone has long had a subsurface gap,” Steven Holbrook, Professor of Geosciences at Virginia Tech explained. “It’s like a ‘mystery sandwich’ we know a lot about the surface features from direct observation and a fair amount about the magmatic and tectonic system several kilometers down from geophysical work, but we don’t really know what’s in the middle.”

To find out, the team used a unique instrument called SkyTEM which is a large loop of wire towed below a helicopter. The loop’s diameter was 80 feet and by sending electricity through it, the researchers created electromagnetic pulses that were sent towards the subsurface and received responses from electrically conductive bodies therein.