World's third largest asteroid impact zone found in South Australia

February 15, 2013 by Sunanda Creagh
The asteroid hit Earth up to 360m years ago, the study found. Credit: NASA

An asteroid measuring up to 20km across hit South Australia up to 360 million years ago and left behind the one of the largest asteroid impact zones on Earth, according to new research published today.

The impact zone in the East Warburton Basin was buried under nearly four kilometres of earth, said Dr Andrew Glikson, a visiting fellow to the Australian National University's Planetary Science Institute and a co-author of the paper.

"It's significant because it's so large. It's the third largest impact terrain anywhere on Earth found to date," Dr Glikson said.

"It's likely to be part of a particular cluster that was linked with a mass extinction event at that time."

Dr Glikson published his findings in a paper in the journal Tectonophysics, co-authored by ANU colleagues Dr John Fitzgerald and Dr Erdinc Saygin and by the University of Queensland's Dr Tonguc Uysal.

The team analysed quartz grains drawn from over 200 samples taken from far below the Earth's surface and studied underground seismic anomalies.

Dr Glikson said there was a chance that the that caused the impact zone actually split in two before it hit.

"We are studying another anomaly in West Warburton that could well be its twin but we don't know yet."

Dr Simon O'Toole, Research Astronomer at the Australian , said the finding was very interesting.

"It strengthens the case for the idea that the Chicxulub crater is connected to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. We are starting to see more evidence that impact events caused mass extinction events," said Dr O'Toole, who was not involved in the research.

"Australia is a fantastic place for impact crater hunters because we have huge open space with nothing in it," said Dr O'Toole, adding that the size of the new impact zone was very significant.

"It's huge. Most asteroid events are about 100m in diameter."

Another asteroid, dubbed 2012 DA14, will pass within 27,700 kilometres from Earth on Saturday, potentially passing communication satellites, but is unlikely to hit the planet.

Explore further: Experts reaffirm asteroid impact caused mass extinction 65 million years ago (w/ Video)

More information:

Related Stories

Australian researcher discovers giant asteroid impact

October 24, 2010

( -- A geothermal energy researcher from the University of Queensland (UQ) has found evidence of a major asteroid impact that occurred more than 300 million years ago in the South Australian outback.

Recommended for you

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

Blue skies, frozen water detected on Pluto

October 8, 2015

Pluto has blue skies and patches of frozen water, according to the latest data out Thursday from NASA's unmanned New Horizons probe, which made a historic flyby of the dwarf planet in July.

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2013
360 Ma bp, that would be the Hangenberg event in the Late Devonian extinction series of events. [ http://en.wikiped...tinction ]

Like the K-Pg impactor event, and "Unlike the [initiating] Kellwasser event, the Hangenberg event affected marine and terrestrial habitats."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.