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Scientists: Asteroid a Mile Wide Hit Earth, and We Know Where

Researchers think 12-mile-wide crater is underwater off coast of Scotland
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2019 8:41 AM CDT
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Stock photo.   (Getty Images/3000ad)

(Newser) – About 10 years ago, scientists found clues of a violent asteroid impact with Earth, and now they say they've finally figured out where the event happened. The Guardian reports that ground zero for the hit is 650 feet under the water between Scotland's mainland and the Outer Hebrides island chain, where a 12-mile-wide crater should exist where the 1-mile-wide space object crashed into the ground at 38,000mph. Writing in the Journal of the Geological Society, researchers from Aberdeen and Oxford universities believe the crater was formed about 1.2 billion years ago, and its creation likely caused quite a scene. "The impact would have sent huge roiling clouds of dust and gas at several hundred degrees in all directions from the impact site," says Oxford researcher Ken Amor, who was one of the original scientists on a 2008 expedition in Scotland that found the first hints of the collision.

It was then, in the village of Stoer, that Amor and his colleagues found "strange green blobs" in an odd rock formation that looked very much like features found in an asteroid crater in Bavaria. The rocks contained what the BBC refers to as "shocked quartz"—pieces of quartz that have undergone enormous pressure of some sort (often tied to meteorite hits) and are deformed as a result. High levels of metals such as palladium and platinum, which are often buried in meteorites, were also found in the Stoer rock. To approximate where the crater could be, the scientists worked backward using different techniques that studied which direction dust and rocks were flung after the impact, said to be the UK's biggest ever from a meteorite. Amor says they should now be able to use a seismic reflection technique used by oil prospecting companies to confirm the crater's location, as long as it hasn't eroded. (Read more asteroids stories.)

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