Geologists discovered a meteor strike location at the Isle of Skye in Scotland. More importantly, the meteor strike occurred 60 million years ago. The scientists uncovered the strike while they were exploring volcanic rocks in the region close to the strike. The 60-million-year-old meteor impact is described as the first within the British Paleogene Igneous Province.
According to Phys.org (PO), the sections of the original meteor which hit the Earth were found at the bottom of a 60-million-year-old lava flow.
“We thought it was an ignimbrite (a volcanic flow deposit),” an associate lecturer in geology at Birkbeck University of London and lead researcher, Simon Drake, said as reported by Phys.org.
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However, when he and his team decided to analyze the rock with an electron microprobe, they found out that the minerals collected were rare and belong to outer space – vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite.
Those minerals haven’t yet been reported to being on Earth. However, NASA has collected them during its Stardust Comet Sample Return Mission, in the wake of the Wild 2 comet. Furthermore, the osbornite mineral hasn’t been melted, meaning it initially belonged to the meteorite which hit. The team also managed to find reidite, which is a high-pressure form of zircon, found in nature only with impacts, together with iron and other minerals which are linked to meteor strikes, for example barringerite.
A second site is located about 4.34 miles (7km) away. It has been proven that the site is a 6.56-feet thick (two-meter) ejecta layer, which also contains similar and uncommon minerals. The researchers think that the meteor strike occurred between 60 million and 61.4 million years ago (Ma), using a 60 Ma radiometric age for the overlaying lava flow, and 61.4Ma for a basalt clast etched to the ejecta layer. The team of researchers published the discovery and its findings in Geology, earlier this week.
Drake told Phys.org that “he was surprised that the ejecta layer had not been identified before,” implying that the Isle of Skye is a famous geological site, and well researched by geologists, although the second, slightly further site hasn’t been sampled for many years. On the other hand, the first site, as suspected by Drake, has steep and rough terrain which could discourage geologists from sampling the layer.
“We were sinking in up to our thighs. I distinctly recall saying to (co-author) Andy Beard, ‘this had better be worth it.’” And, as now Drake told PO, “It was worth it.”
The scientists yet have to determine the exact time of the meteor strikes, and where exactly they hit the Earth. Drake and his team, also have to determine whether those meteor(s) could have caused the lava flows, which originated about the same time.