Ancient Crater Found In Canada: Meteorite Thought To Be Responsible For Huge Crater Found In Alberta, Canada

By Shweta Iyer on May 7, 2014 10:30 AM EDT

ancient crater
This is a map showing the structure and contour of the Bow City crater. Color variation shows meters above sea level (Photo: Alberta Geographic Survey/Univ)

For millions of years the Earth has been target to meteorite strikes and geologists have so far discovered numerous craters caused by these collisions. The latest crater to be discovered is in southern Alberta, Canada where an ancient ring like structure was found, thought to be caused by a meteorite strike. The crater may have been eight-kilometers wide and the explosion caused by the strike would have been strong enough to destroy present-day Calgary, according to a press release Wednesday.

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The discovery was made by a geologist with the Alberta Geological Survey and studied by a University of Alberta team led by Doug Schmitt, Canada Research Chair in Rock Physics. The site was found near the southern Alberta hamlet of Bow City. Although seismic and geological evidence of the site points towards a meteorite collision, its impact is no longer visible as it has eroded or been buried by glaciers over time.

"We know that the impact occurred within the last 70 million years, and in that time about 1.5 km of sediment has been eroded. That makes it really hard to pin down and actually date the impact," says Schmitt, a professor in the Faculty of Science and co-author of a new paper  

Erosion and tectonics are responsible for removing all traces of the crater except the "roots", visible as a semi-circular depression eight kilometres across with a central peak. Schmitt says that when it formed, the crater likely reached a depth of 1.6 to 2.4 km. Graduate student Wei Xie and member of the team determined that such an impact would have killed all life in the surrounding area.

"An impact of this magnitude would kill everything for quite a distance," he said. "If it happened today, Calgary (200 km to the northwest) would be completely fried and in Edmonton (500 km northwest), every window would have been blown out. Something of that size, throwing that much debris in the air, potentially would have global consequences; there could have been ramifications for decades."

The remnants of the crater was first discovered by geologist Paul Glombick in 2009, when he was working on a geological map of the area for the Alberta Geological Survey. Glombick relied on existing geophysical log data from the oil and gas industry when he discovered a bowl-shaped structure.

Further research was conducted by Schmitt and his team of students, who later confirmed the crater-like structure by analysing seismic records and geological evidence.

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