Newly-discovered crater yields clues to 1.2 billion-year-old asteroid strike in Scotland

Approximately 1.2 billion years ago, according to scientists, a massive asteroid fell from space and impacted with the Earth somewhere in the the modern-day United Kingdom. But despite their projections, researchers had been unable to locate an impact crater to prove their hypothesis.

Now, however, University of Oxford geochemist  Dr. Ken Amor says he believes he and his team have found exactly where the massive projectile hit the planet, and it turns out the evidence had been hiding underwater, Sci News reports:

“Using a combination of field observations, the distribution of broken rock fragments known as basement clasts and the alignment of magnetic particles, the team was able to gauge the direction the meteorite material took at several locations, and plotted the likely source of the crater.”

Aerial photo of the Barringer Meteorite Crater in Arizona

The precise location of the crater is 9 to 12 miles off Enard Bay in the Minch Basin, between mainland Scotland and the Outer Hebrides. And it was found under the ocean, according to Science Alert:

“There’s no crater visible today, though: what’s left of it is 200 metres (656 feet) down below the surface of the ocean, caked in aeons of sediment. It’s thought the asteroid was enormous: one kilometre wide.

Based on the researchers’ analysis, the crater would have originally been around 13 to 14 km (8.1 to 8.7 miles) wide, and 3 km (1.9 miles) deep.”

Imagine something that massive striking the Earth! As Dr. Amor notes, the effect of the impact would have been tremendous:

“The impact would have sent huge roiling clouds of dust and gas at several hundred degrees in all directions from the impact site.”

The world was much different over a billion years ago, and most life was found in the oceans, Amor added:

“About 1.2 billion years ago most of life on Earth was still in the oceans and there were no plants on the land.

“At that time 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.”

Could another asteroid the size of the one off the Scottish coast happen again? The Oxford researchers say there’s a very good chance that will indeed occur:

“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.

“Much smaller impacts, where the meteorite is only a few meters across are thought to be relatively common perhaps occurring about once every 25 years on average.

“It is thought that collisions with an object about 3,300 feet across occur between once every 100,000 years to once every one million years.”

However, if such a gigantic object were to impact with the Earth now, it could cause large-scale death and destruction, depending on where it lands. It’s yet another reason we need to learn from what happened in the past so we can plan for the future.


Featured Image Via Pixabay

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