Britain’s meteorite crater could hold the key to understanding possibility of life on Mars | Science | News

Dr Michael Simms revealed last year he had found the centre of the 25-mile wide crater buried more than three miles beneath the village of Lairg in Sutherland.

It was created around 1.2billion years ago when a 13billion tonne chunk of space rock travelling at more than 40,000mph struck the Earth with the force of 940million Hiroshima bombs.

Strange ‘melted’ rocks in the area were thought to be evidence of ancient volcanic activity before geologists discovered in 2008 they had been created by a meteorite impact.

However, the crater was thought to be buried under the Atlantic – until Dr Simms made his discovery by chance on a visit to the Highlands.

Now his work is helping to lead to a greater understanding of the thousands of meteorite impact craters on the surface of .

Dr Simms, of Ulster Museum in Belfast, said: “It’s similar to what we know about impact deposits on Mars and another strand of research that is being followed up is why does it look more like the craters on Mars than those on Earth, for example the big dinosaur killing crater. It tells us potentially what is going on on Mars when a big meteorite hits the planet.

Like most craters on Mars, Lairg is a “single layered ejecta” crater and Dr Simms believes this could be evidence of it striking a thick layer of “water-saturated sandy sediment” above bedrock.

He added: “If we can understand why the Scottish deposit is just one layer, rather than two, then we can perhaps get an idea of what the surface of Mars is like and how it behaves when hit by a large meteorite.

“I don’t know that it would particularly help in determining if there is life on Mars, but the evidence from Scotland may go some way to understanding processes on the surface of that planet which, in turn, may help in figuring out the best places to look for life.”

He pointed out that if the Lairg meteorite happened today, the consequences would be unimaginable and continued: “Scotland would be completely wiped out. Nobody would survive.


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