March 26, 2008

Britain’s Largest Space Impact Discovered

A large object may have struck northwest Scotland almost 1.2 billion years ago, according to researchers from Oxford and Aberdeen universities.

By studying the impact, researchers reported that it was Landing just shy of present-day Ullapool, the meteorite is reported to be the largest ever to hit Britain, researchers said in the journal Geology.

"If there had been human observers in Scotland 1.2 billion years ago, they would have seen quite a show," said co-author Ken Amor, from the University of Oxford.

"The massive impact would have melted rocks and thrown up an enormous cloud of vapor that scattered material over a large part of the region around Ullapool. The crater was rapidly buried by sandstone which helped to preserve the evidence."

It was previously assumed that the rock formations in the region were formed by volcanic activity, but researchers said they found evidence of "ejecta blanket" material dispersed by the meteorite's impact.

"These rocks are superbly displayed on the west coast of Scotland, and visited by numerous student parties each year," said Professor John Parnell, Head of Geology & Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen.

"We're very lucky to have them available for study, as they can tell us much about how planetary surfaces, including Mars, become modified by large meteorite strikes. Building up the evidence has been painstaking, but has resulted in proof of the largest meteorite strike known in the British Isles."

The only other confirmed space impact location in the UK is Silverpit in the North Sea. The impact structure is about 80 miles east of Yorkshire coast


On the Net:

University of Aberdeen

'A Precambrian proximal ejecta blanket from Scotland'