Crater from UK's biggest meteorite 1.2 billion years ago discovered in Scotland

James Marshall
June 11, 2019

The ancient crater is positioned roughly 10 miles inland from a remote section of the Scottish coast. The massive asteroid would have crashed at a rate of about 65,000 kilometres per hour (more than 40,000 mph).

The meteorite would have travelled at a speed of 40,000mph and hit the Earth with a force nearly 1 billion times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

Scientists first identified evidence of the impact in 2008, but they were unable to pin down the exact location of the crater.

Scientists from Oxford and Aberdeen Universities discovered that the span of the collision crater is one kilometer wide; most of which is buried 15-20 kilometers off the coast, beneath water and younger rocks in the Minch Basin.

"It was purely by chance this one landed in an ancient rift valley where fresh sediment quickly covered the debris to preserve it".

The next step in the investigation is a detailed geophysical survey of the target area in the Minch Basin.

Unusual rock formations in the area were previously thought to have been formed by volcanic activity.

"If you imagine debris flowing out in a big cloud across the landscape, hugging the ground, eventually that material slows down and comes to rest", Amor told Jonathan Amos at the BBC.

The strike, the largest of its kind discovered in Britain, scattered debris over an area 31 miles across.

In the rocks, there were also elevated levels of the element iridium, which is characteristic of extra-terrestrial material. Platinum and palladium, well-known meteorite metals, were also detected. Scotland would have been quite close to the equator and in a semi-arid environment. "The landscape would have looked a bit like Mars when it had water at the surface". Judging by its dry land, Earth was a barren planet.

However, there is a possibility that a similar event will happen in the future given the number of asteroid and comet fragments floating around in the solar system.

Collisions with meteors the size of the Scotland rock, on the other hand, hit on average every 100,000 to one million years.

The scientists say that the thickness and extent of the debris deposited suggested the impact crater was made by a meteorite that was 1k wide.

Although thousands of meteorites hit the Earth every year, they typically leave much smaller dents.

It may sound simple, but it took years for this discovery.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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