Feeds

UK's biggest meteorite impact rocked Scotland

Prehistoric Ullapool enjoyed 'quite a show'

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

It's lucky for the good burghers of Ullapool in Scotland that they weren't around 1.2 billion years ago, because it was around then that the biggest meteorite ever to hit the British Isles would have made a bit of a dent in local house prices.

That's according to the combined forces of the University of Oxford and the University of Aberdeen, who say that "unusual rock formations" previously thought to have volcanic origins are actually the debris ejected from a meteorite strike which threw material over an area 50km across.

The volcanic theory has always had geologists scratching their heads, since there are "no volcanic vents or other volcanic sediments nearby". The researchers moved in for the kill by taking rock samples in 2006, and have now published their revelations in the journal Geology.

Ken Amor of Oxford Uni’s Department of Earth Sciences, explained: "Chemical testing of the rocks found the characteristic signature of meteoritic material, which has high levels of the key element iridium, normally only found in low concentrations in surface rocks on Earth. We found more evidence when we examined the rocks under a microscope; tell-tale microscopic parallel fractures that also imply a meteorite strike."

Professor John Parnell, head of Geology & Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen, chipped in with: "These rocks are superbly displayed on the west coast of Scotland, and visited by numerous student parties each year. We’re very lucky to have them available for study, as they can tell us much about how planetary surfaces, including Mars, become modified by large meteorite strikes. Building up the evidence has been painstaking, but has resulted in proof of the largest meteorite strike known in the British Isles."

Amor added: "If there had been human observers in Scotland 1.2 billion years ago they would have seen quite a show. The massive impact would have melted rocks and thrown up an enormous cloud of vapour that scattered material over a large part of the region around Ullapool. The crater was rapidly buried by sandstone which helped to preserve the evidence."

The researchers hope that the evidence they've gathered will help them to "understand the ancient impacts that shaped the surface of other planets, such as Mars", Amor concluded. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?