HomeScienceEnvironmentThe Largest Meteorite Collision in the UK Has Been Discovered

The Largest Meteorite Collision in the UK Has Been Discovered

Scientists believe they have discovered the site of the biggest meteorite impact ever to hit the British Isles. Evidence for the ancient, 1.2 billion-year-old meteorite strike was first discovered in 2008 near Ullapool, N.W. Scotland, by scientists from Oxford and Aberdeen Universities.

The thickness and extent of the debris deposit they found suggested the impact crater — made by a meteorite estimated at 1 km wide — was close to the coast, but its precise location remained a mystery.

In a paper published in the Journal of the Geological Society, a team led by Dr. Ken Amor from the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University shows how they have identified the crater location 15-20 km west of a remote part of the Scottish coastline.

It is buried beneath both water and younger rocks in the Minch Basin. Dr. Ken Amor said:

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. Dr. Ken Amor said:

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.

Earth and other planets may have suffered a higher rate of meteorite impacts in the distant past, as they collided with debris left over from the formation of the early solar system.

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. 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 1 km (as in this instance) across occur between once every 100,000 years to once every 1 million years — but estimates vary. One of the reasons for this is that our terrestrial record of large impacts is poorly known because craters are obliterated by erosion, burial, and plate tectonics.

Provided by: University of Oxford [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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  • Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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