Everyday 60% of the world’s population wakes up in Asia and go about their day. Most are unaware of how events beyond our planet can shape our lives. Most don’t understand how space affects earth but these effects could be profound, they could be deadly. And that’s why we think this story of how a meteorite hit Greenland is very relevant for all of us.
In a remote area of northwest Greenland, an international team of scientists has made a stunning discovery, buried beneath a kilometer of ice. It’s a meteor impact crater, 300 meters deep and bigger than Paris or the Beltway around Washington, DC. It is one of the 25 largest known impact craters on Earth, and the first found under any of our planet’s ice sheets.
“Previous radar measurements of Hiawatha Glacier were part of a long-term NASA effort to map Greenland’s changing ice cover,” MacGregor said. “What we really needed to test our hypothesis was a dense and focused radar survey there. The survey exceeded all expectations and imaged the depression in stunning detail: a distinctly circular rim, central uplift, disturbed and undisturbed ice layering, and basal debris — it’s all there.”
The crater formed less than 3 million years ago, according to the study, when an iron meteorite more than half a mile wide smashed into northwest Greenland. The resulting depression was subsequently covered by ice hiding the way that space affects earth. At least temporarily.
“The crater is exceptionally well-preserved and that is surprising because glacier ice is an incredibly efficient erosive agent that would have quickly removed traces of the impact,” said Kurt Kjær, a professor at the Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and lead author of the study.
In the summers of 2016 and 2017, the research team returned to the Hiawatha Glacier to map tectonic structures in the rock near the foot of the glacier and collect samples of sediments washed out from the depression through a meltwater channel.
“Some of the quartz sand coming from the crater had planar deformation features indicative of a violent impact; this is conclusive evidence that the depression beneath the Hiawatha Glacier is a meteorite crater,” said associate professor Nicolaj Larsen of Aarhus University in Denmark, one of the authors of the study..
Earlier studies have shown large impacts can profoundly affect Earth’s climate, with major consequences for life on Earth at the time. The researchers plan to continue their work in this area, addressing remaining questions on when and how the meteorite impact at Hiawatha Glacier affected the planet. As it turns out space affects earth in profound ways and as such its important to study and learn about the dangers.