March 10, 2010

Deforestation Reveals African Impact Crater

Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has unveiled what could be one of the largest impact craters discovered over the past 10 years, according to a noted Italian scientist.

University of Padova scholar Giovanni Monegato, who presented his findings during the recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas, was one of the researchers who spotted the 30-mile ring using satellite imagery. He states that the geologic feature, located near the Unia River, became noticeable only after trees in the area had been cleared away over the last decade.

On Wednesday, March 10, Monegato has told BBC News that he is "quite optimistic" that the ring is, in fact, an impact crater, due largely to the similarity of the drainage patterns to other impact craters in similar humid climates. He also mentions that the team plans to travel to the region to look for quartz mineral deposits and signs that could prove their theory.

According to the BBC's Paul Rincon, "If it is an impact structure, the scientists estimate it could have been punched into the crust by a space rock measuring about 2km across. Further studies will be required to accurately determine an age for the ring, but it appears to post-date the Jurassic Period."

Despite the size of the DR Congo crater, it would not be among the largest impact craters in the world. The biggest is the Vredefort crater in South Africa, which has a diameter of more than 186 miles. A 155-mile crater, the Sudsbury crater, is located in Ontario, Canada, and 105-mile Chicxulub crater in Yucatan, Mexico are the two largest impact rings in North America.


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