Australian scientists are among the best in the world. Known for their enterprising minds and sense of curiosity, our local scientists have contributed much to the general advance of human civilisation. But a recent discovery in central Australia may be one of the biggest yet…
A research team from the Australian National University (ANU) claim to have discovered the largest asteroid impact zone on earth. The team found two ancient craters that were believed to have been caused by the massive fracturing of a falling meteorite. The rare find will assist scientists interested in physics, biology and astronomy.
Dr Andrew Glikson, the ANU team leader, described the find during a recent interview with the ABC Online: “They appear to be two large structures, with each of them approximately 200 kilometres,” Dr Glikson explained. “So together, jointly they would form a 400 kilometre structure which is the biggest we know of anywhere in the world. The consequences are that it could have caused a large mass extinction event at the time, but we still don’t know the age of this asteroid impact and we are still working on it.”
To the naked eye, the craters are so large and so well covered with native flora that they may not appear to exist. But thanks to ingenuitive new geothermal techniques, the team was able to look beyond the surface layer of the land (across South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory). The result was a geothermal map which indicated the existence of a kind-of impact zone. The team’s research was subsequently published in the Tectonophysics journal.
“The next step will be more research, hopefully deep crust seismic traverses,” Dr Glikson told the ABC. “Under the Cooper Basin and Warburton Basin we don’t have that information and our seismic information covers up to five kilometres and some other data such as seismic tomography and magnetic data. The mantle underneath has been up-domed which is a very promising indication of a major event.”
Dr. Glikson believes future research might have a dramatic impact on the world as we know it.
“When we know more about the age of the impact, then we will know whether it correlates with one of the large mass extinctions [at the end of specific eras]. At this stage we do not have all the answers, but there has been a lot of interest and people are certainly interested in any impact on the dinosaurs.”
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