Science

Scientists have discovered a 60-million-year-old meteorite impact in the Isle of Skye

In a new find, scientists have got hold of a meteorite impact that they believe had hit our Earth almost 60 million years ago. A group of geologists got hold of an ‘alien’ mineral while exploring the volcanic rocks of Isle of Skye, a remote island in Scotland. At first, the researchers thought that the rocks are nothing but volcanic flow deposits called ignimbrite. But when they examined the rock deeply, they found out that rare meteoritic minerals were present beneath a 60million year lava flow that had originated from an ancient volcanic eruption.

This surprising discovery was made by Simon Drake, an associate lecturer in geology at the Birkbeck University of London and his colleague Dr. Andy Beard, a lecturer at Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “When we discovered what it was we were very surprised, and it was a bit of a shock because we were not expecting that,” said Dr. Beard. The researchers found out that the mineral had meteoritic origins and was rich in vanadium as well as niobium. Scientists call those Vanadium –rich and niobium-rich minerals as obsornite, and these obsornite are extremely rare on Earth.

Scientists say that these obsornites come from outer space and they are mainly associated with the meteorites and comets. In 2006, the Stardust Comet Sample Return Mission of NASA gathered those obsornites as space dust in the wake of comet 2. As per the geologists, the rare mineral that they found out was in an unmelted position which hinted that it was an original piece of the meteorite. As the particular area, where the metal was found, was steep and very boggy it could have prevented previous researchers from exploring the site, as said by Dr. Drake. “We were sinking in up to our thighs. I distinctly recall saying to Andy Beard, ‘This had better be worth it.’ It was worth it,” he stated.

After getting first evidence of the possible meteorite impact, the researchers carried on their exploration, and to their surprise, they found out another region, seven kilometers away from the first site, which also had similar deposits of the rare obsornite. They found those unusual minerals inside a two-meter thick ejecta layer. After analyzing both the sites, scientists concluded that a prehistoric meteorite might have hit Earth between 60-60.4 million years ago. According to the geologists, an in-depth study of this ancient meteorite impact might reveal some important information its connection with the Palaeogene volcanic activity across the North Atlantic.

Dr. Drake said that that meteorite strike might have played a crucial role in Skye’s volcanological evolution. The geologists discovered those rare space minerals with the help of an electron microprobe. The research team has informed that there are two more sites in the region of Isle of Skye that might possess evidence of a meteorite impact.

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