Researchers from Canada's University of Saskatchewan, along with the Geological Survey of Canada, have discovered the country's 30th meteor impact crater — a 25-kilometer astrobleme created more than 100 million years ago in the Arctic.
The pit-like hole created by the impact of a meteor is in the northwestern part of Victoria Island, and located between Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
Researchers named the discovery after the peninsula where the impact happened: it is now called the Prince Albert impact crater.
"It's another piece of the cosmic Earth puzzle," Brian Pratt, geology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said in a press release. "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."
Shatter cones sighted
Pratt found the crater with Keith Dewing, who works with the Geological Survey of Canada, two summers ago while exploring the area from a helicopter.
It took them two years to properly assemble the geological maps and submit their findings for publication.
Pratt said it probably took this long to find the large crater because "unless you recognize the telltale clues, you wouldn't know what you were looking at."
The researchers knew they were on to something when they found many shatter cones in the area.
"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," said Pratt. "Our map showed that the feature is circular, which is characteristic of impact craters."
Though there is no way to figure out the exact time the meteor formed the crater, evidence from their research shows that it is younger than 350 million years, but older than 130 million years.
There are about 160 known meteorite impact features on Earth.
This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.