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  • Frits Westra
    Largest ever field of impact craters uncovered 07 November 04 http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996611 Exclusive from New Scientist Print
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2004
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      Largest ever field of impact craters uncovered

      07 November 04

      http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996611

      Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.

      The discovery of the largest field of impact craters ever uncovered on
      Earth is the first evidence that the planet suffered simultaneous meteor
      impacts in the recent past. The field has gone unnoticed until now because
      it is partially buried beneath the sands of the Sahara desert in
      south-west Egypt.

      Philippe Paillou of Bordeaux University Observatory in Floirac, France,
      first noticed circular geological structures in the Sahara last year,
      while analysing radar satellite pictures of the area.

      The structures turned out to be part of a huge field of 100 craters spread
      over 5000 square kilometres near the Gilf Kebir plateau. The craters vary
      in diameter from 20 metres to 2 kilometres across. The previous largest
      known crater field covers a mere 60 square kilometres in Argentina.

      In February, Paillou led a joint Egyptian and French mission to find the
      site and examined 13 of the craters, confirming that they were the result
      of simultaneous impacts. But accurately dating the field has been tricky.
      Paillou estimates that it is roughly 50 million years old, relatively
      young in geological terms.

      The size of the field suggests that it could be the result of two or more
      meteors disintegrating as they entered Earth?s atmosphere, the first
      evidence of a multiple strike, he says.

      "Because the field is so big, it can?t have been made by one meteor," says
      Paillou. But more information is needed to understand the event and its
      effects, and Paillou plans to return to the area next month.

      Jonathan Walter

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