An enormous crater measuring 400km in width, caused by two separate meteorite impacts, has been found in central Australia. The crater is said to be the largest ever found.
Despite its enormous size, the actual extent of the impact had eluded researchers for some time due to the fact the crater does not exist on the planet’s surface. It had been gradually buried by the forces of nature over the course of millions of years.
According to the team from the Australian National University (ANU) that discovered the subterranean crater, the impact was not the result of one solitary object hitting the Earth, but rather a double impact separating from one object not long before the crash.
The actual discovery only occurred after a geothermal research operation stumbled across the existence of a prehistoric crater 2km beneath the planet’s surface, unearthing the existence of glass, which must have been created during a major impact.
Number of mysteries remain
However, when this event actually occurred is still a bit of a mystery. The depth at which the crater has been found only indicates that it would have happened between 300m and 600m years ago.
However, the team has been left baffled by the fact there hasn’t been any discovery of an after-effect of such a cataclysmic event as was seen during the last major extinction event which wiped out the dinosaurs 66m years ago and coated the planet in a layer of life-choking ash.
As for the size of the meteorites, the team believes each one would have had to have measured at least 10km across for it to cause such an enormous impact.
With so many questions left to be answered by the discovery, the study’s lead researcher, Dr Andrew Glikson, said it could effectively rewrite the history book for Earth’s known history.
“Large impacts like these may have had a far more significant role in the Earth’s evolution than previously thought.”
Meteor impact image via Shutterstock