Australia Hosts World’s Largest Asteroid Crater Zone

By @ibtimesau on
IN PHOTO: In this image of the giant asteroid Vesta obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft November 27, 2011 as it was spiraling down from its high altitude mapping orbit to low altitude mapping orbit, in this photograph released by NASA December 12, 2011. The framing camera obtained this image of an area in the northern mid-latitudes of Vesta from an altitude of about 140 miles (225 km). NASA announced December 12 that the spacecraft successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta on Monday, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 130 miles (210 km). in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout

Central Australia has the world’s largest asteroid crater zone, a group of scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) said in their research published in the journal Tectonophysics. The impact zone, spreading over an area 400 kilometres (250 miles) wide, was caused by a gigantic meteorite that split in two shortly before smashing into Earth.

The double punch that happened millions of year ago wiped out a large numbers of species during that time. "The two asteroids must each have been over 10 kilometers across -- it would have been curtains for many life species on the planet at the time," lead researcher Andrew Glikson of the Australian National University said.

The crater from the impact has long disappeared. But a team of geophysicists found evidences of the impacts in a rock deemed to be 300-600 million years old, embedded in the crust that is 30 kilometres (19 miles) deep. The impact zone area was in the Warburton Basin in Central Australia, near the borders of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

"There are two huge deep domes in the crust, formed by the Earth's crust rebounding after the huge impacts and bringing up rock from the mantle below," Glikson said. He added they have yet to determine the age of the asteroid impact, but believed the material they saw came from the same meteorite. "The next step will be more research, hopefully deep crust seismic traverses," he said.

The discovery has generated a lot of interest and people would want to know if they have any relation to the impact and demise of the dinosaurs, Glikson said. "Large impacts like these may have had a far more significant role in the Earth's evolution than previously thought." He suspects the impact could be older than 300 million years.

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