Scientists in Antarctica have discovered a formation over a mile wide that they believe may be an impact crater, and despite speculation that it is linked to a meteorite that struck Earth in 2004, its origins remain a mystery.
German Scientists spotted the crater on a routine survey flight above the King Baudoin Ice Shelf in Antarctica, according to the Daily Mail. Broken ice lingered at the center of a ring-like scar within the crater, marring the surface of the normally flat and featureless shelf. The crater was first discovered on December 24, before researchers returned on December 26 to document it, using a laser to create a topographical map.
The crater was sighted by Dr. Christian Müller, a geophysicist in Antarctica with the surveying company Fielax.
“We were on a routine measuring flight near to the coast and we were flying above a small ice bluff,” he recalled. “I looked out of the window and saw some unusual structures in the surface of the ice that were some broken ice looking like icebergs that is very unusual on a very flat ice shelf surrounded by a large wing shaped circular structure. I’ve never seen something like that before.”
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) January 12, 2015
At first, Müller connected the crater to a meteorite believed to have fallen over Antarctica in 2004. According to Live Science, however, the German research team, part of the Alfred Wegener Institute, discovered the structure in satellite photos from 1996.
“The [connection] to the 2004 event really piqued our interest in the first place, but I don’t think what we’ve seen in the satellite images rules out the possibility of an impact origin,” lead researcher Graeme Eagles said.
The sheer size of the crater warrants skepticism about its origins, according to experts. A formation like the one spotted in Antarctica, measuring roughly 1.2 miles across, would result from the impact of an object 325 feet (100 meters) long, according to Peter Brown, of the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
“A very large explosion would have caused a 2-kilometer-wide crater – much larger than anything detected impacting Earth in recent history,” he noted.
— josetron (@josetron) January 12, 2015
In December, a meteorite was spotted in the sky over the United States’ Eastern Seaboard. As the Inquisitr previously noted, video of the fireball, captured on a dashcam, spread quickly online.
Despite the enthusiasm of some observers, Brown was joined by several other scientists who asserted that the idea of a meteorite impact crater of the size reported in Antarctica was implausible.
[Image: Tobias Binder, via the Daily Mail]