Untouched meteorite impact crater found via Google Earth

Jul 26, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Kamil Crater. Image credit: Luigi Folco.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A pristine meteorite impact crater has been found in a remote area of the Sahara desert in southwest Egypt. The crater was originally noticed on Google Earth images, and is believed to be only a few thousand years old.

The 45-meter-wide and 16-meter-deep crater, called Kamil, was probably formed by the impact of an iron , and was first noticed on images in 2008 by Vincenzo de Michele, former curator of the Civico Museo di Storia Naturale, in Milan, Italy. Now researchers led by Luigi Folco, meteorite curator at the Museo Nazionale dell'Antartide attached to the University of Siena, have also reported finding the crater in satellite images taken in 1972, and have visited the site. The report is online in the latest edition of the Science journal.

The rim of the crater is three meters high and is surrounded by spokes or rays of light-colored material blasted out of the crater by the impact. Folco said “rayed craters” are extremely rare on Earth but common on Mars or the moon, where the sparse atmosphere provides fewer environmental processes to erode them. On Earth such rays or spokes are usually eroded or covered quickly.

The scientists traveled to the site last year to confirm the discovery, and returned in February this year. During their expeditions they have located over 5,000 pieces of iron meteorite, weighing 1.7 tonnes in total, and they estimate the original meteorite was around 1.3 meters wide, weighed 5-10 tonnes, and hit the Earth at about 3.5 kilometers per second, causing most of its material to vaporize.

Digital elevation model of the Kamil Crater with superimposed magnetic anomaly map detected after systematic searches and collection of meteorites >10 g. Image credit: Luigi Folco, Science Express, doi:10.1126/science.1190990.

Folco said the crater is so well-preserved it will provide a lot of information on small-scale meteorite impacts. There are only 176 confirmed impact craters on the ’s surface, but most wear away quickly, and only 15 of them are smaller than 300 meters in diameter. The new crater will help scientists to assess the hazards posed by small meteorites. Such impacts occur about once every 10-100 years, and most small meteorites burn up as they enter the atmosphere and do not reach the ground.

The team also analyzed samples of soil and glass formed by fusion of sand at the site. They hope these analyses will help them pinpoint the age of the crater, and preliminary results suggest the meteorite probably hit no earlier than 5,000 years ago, which is recent on the geological time scale.

The coordinates of Kamil are 22º 01' 06" N 26º 05' 15" E.

Explore further: Study shows air temperature influenced African glacial movements

More information: The Kamil Crater in Egypt, Science Express, Published Online July 22, 2010. doi:10.1126/science.1190990

Related Stories

Meteorite hits on Earth: There may be a recount

Nov 25, 2008

Meteorite craters might not be as rare as we think. A University of Alberta researcher has found a tool that could reveal possibly hundreds of undiscovered craters across Canada and around the world.

Finding a meteorite's final resting place

Nov 27, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Alberta researcher Chris Herd doesn't want people craning their necks, worrying about giant rocks falling from space. But he's unleashed new technology that could prove meteorite ...

Britain’s biggest meteorite impact found

Mar 26, 2008

Evidence of the biggest meteorite ever to hit the British Isles has been found by scientists from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Oxford.

Layered Crater on Mars

Jul 18, 2007

This image covers an impact crater roughly 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in diameter. The subimage shows just a small segment of the crater rim (1336 x 889; 3 MB). ...

Recommended for you

Melting during cooling period

10 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

13 hours ago

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Jul 26, 2010
and only a kilometer from a major road too! how's that for luck! :)
5 / 5 (3) Jul 26, 2010
What about this location in Chile???
26°58'32.34"S 70°47'27.85"O
looks similar and untouched too...
not rated yet Jul 27, 2010
That surely looks the same to me. Well spotted.

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.