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Researchers Discover New Impact Crater in the Arctic

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  • Ron Baalke
    Research Communications University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, Saskatchewan August 07, 2012 Researchers discover new impact crater in the Arctic Researchers
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2012
      Research Communications
      University of Saskatchewan
      Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

      August 07, 2012

      Researchers discover new impact crater in the Arctic

      Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and the Geological Survey of
      Canada (GSC) have discovered a massive meteor impact from millions of years
      ago in Canada's western Arctic.

      Located on the northwestern part of Victoria Island, the impact crater, or
      astrobleme, is about 25 km wide and is Canada's 30th known meteorite impact
      feature.

      "It's another piece of the cosmic Earth puzzle," explained U of S geology
      professor Brian Pratt, who made the discovery with GSC colleague Keith
      Dewing. "Impact craters like this give us clues into how the Earth's crust
      is recycled and the speed of erosion, and may be implicated in episodes of
      widespread extinction of animals in the geological past."

      The researchers discovered the crater two summers ago while exploring the
      area by helicopter for the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Geo-Mapping for
      Energy and Minerals program, and it took two years to properly assemble the
      geological maps and submit their article for publication. Pratt and Dewing
      named the new discovery the Prince Albert impact crater after the peninsula
      where it is situated.

      And while there is no way to pinpoint the exact timing of the impact,
      evidence suggests the crater is younger than about 350 million years but
      older than about 130 million years. One of the questions asked of Pratt is
      how could something this large lay undiscovered for so long.

      "Several geologists visited that area in the '60s and '70s," said Pratt. "It
      was those old industry reports of steeply tilted strata, unusual in the
      western Arctic, that had us intrigued. Unless you recognized the telltale
      clues, you wouldn't know what you were looking at. You might see a bunch of
      broken rocks and wonder how they got there, but we found abundant shatter
      cones. These are radiating crack surfaces up to a metre in size that are
      formed from the enormous amount of energy created when a meteorite slams
      into the Earth's crust. Our map showed that the feature is circular which is
      characteristic of impact craters. It's an exciting discovery."

      There are at least 160 known meteorite impact features on Earth. Because of
      the extent of ocean coverage, the effects of weathering and erosion, and the
      dynamic nature of plate tectonics, Pratt said geologists believe many more
      meteorites must have hit the Earth but there is now no trace of them.

      For maps and additional photos, visit the U of S Flickr gallery
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/usask/sets/72157630747745754/
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