Second Huge Meteor Impact Crater Discovered Deep Beneath Greenland Ice, Scientists Say

A Nasa graphic showing the possible outline of the latest crater discovered in Antarctica

The newly discovered huge meteorite crater beneath Greenland's ice measures a little over 22 miles wide, and is freely considered one of the largest meteorite impact sites on the planet, as long as scientists confirm that it was created as a result of an impact between a large space rock and Earth.

Why it matters: This would be the third pair of craters that sit close to one another that we've found on Earth.

This follows the finding, announced in November 2018, of a 19-mile-wide crater beneath Hiawatha Glacier - the first meteorite impact crater ever discovered under Earth's ice sheets.

Though the newly found impact sites in northwest Greenland are only 114 miles apart, at present they do not appear to have formed at the same time.

More specifically, this second ancient subglacial crater detected by the U.S. space agency stretches across about 37 kilometers under two kilometers of ice in northwest Greenland.

A glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Joe MacGregor, was wondering if they have found another impact crater, but that should be confirmed by the data. Following the discovery, researchers have looked for signs of other craters using topographic maps and satellite imagery.

"The only other circular structure that might approach this size would be a collapsed volcanic caldera", MacGregor said in a statement. He then used raw radar images generally used to map the topography of the bedrock beneath the ice and saw that several distinct features including a flat, bowl-shaped depression in the bedrock with an elevated rim, were buried under the ice. This thicker ice may have eroded the crater faster, or if the crater formed earlier than the Hiawatha crater, there would have simply been more time for erosion to take its toll.

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Impressed by that discovery, a crew led by NASA glaciologist Joseph MacGregor began scanning Greenland for different craters. Though the structure isn't as clearly circular as the Hiawatha crater, MacGregor estimated the second crater's diameter at 22.7 miles.

Scientists have recognized about 200 affect craters on our planet, however that is exclusively the second time in historical past that a crater has been detected beneath an ice sheet.

If, at some point in the future, MacGregor's discovery is conclusively determined through drilling and geophysical surveying to be an impact crater, it will be the 22nd-largest on record in the world. Experts say that the crater was formed by a meteorite that struck Earth "less than 3 million years ago" and likely "rocked the Northern Hemisphere".

'But the areas of known volcanic activity in Greenland are several hundred miles away.

The best current estimate dates the new crater around 2.6 million years old, much older than the Hiawatha crater at roughly 100,000 years. "Also, a volcano should have a clear positive magnetic anomaly, and we don't see that at all", Dr. MacGregor said.

It was found thanks to NASA satellite images of the ice sheet surface and radar data from airborne missions. Do the underlying data support that idea?'

Satellite view of the Hiawatha crater (upper left), and the position of the new potential impact crater identified by the new study.

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