Site of the giant 1.2 billion-year-old meteorite

Meteorite strike
Copyright: iStock/MARHARYTA MARKO

Oxford University studied the site of a 1.2 billion-year-old meteorite strike that left 1km wide crater.

A team led by Dr Ken Amor from Oxford University have identified a crater, just off the Scottish coast, buried beneath water and rocks in the Minch Basin. The site was the point of contact of a 1.2 billion-year-old meteorite strike that left 1km wide crater.

Dr Ken Amor said: “The material excavated during a giant meteorite impact is rarely preserved on Earth, because it is rapidly eroded, so this is a really exciting discovery. 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 will be a detailed geophysical survey in our target area of the Minch Basin.’

The distribution of basement clasts, a type of broken rock fragments, and the alignment of magnetic particles were observed by the team from Oxford University. These observations allowed the researchers to accurately gauge the path that the meteorite took.

It is estimated that, at the time of this meteorite strike, most of the life on earth was oceanic with no land foliage. The crash site in Scotland would have been very close to the equator. The environment would have been very dry with very little rainfall.

Dr Ken Amor said: “It would have been quite a spectacle when this large meteorite struck a barren landscape, spreading dust and rock debris over a wide area.”

Scientists predict that a very similar event will happen in the future. Due to the high volume of asteroids and geological material in our solar system. Meteorites of this size are believed to strike earth very rarely. The predicted collision rate of meteorites, spanning around 1km, is once every 100,000 years to once every one million years.

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