A new and gigantic crater is discovered under the thick ice of Greenland

New crater discovered in Greenland / NASA Goddard

In November last year an international team of scientists published a study in which they reported on the discovery of a huge meteorite impact under the Greenland ice. Now, three months later and beyond the expectations of many, another study announces the discovery of a new crater 183 kilometers from the first.

Joseph MacGregor, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, was part of the team that discovered the first crater: Hiawatha. In 2016, when the team was still conducting research to publish the first study, McGregor was already looking for a new crater; however, finding one so quickly was totally unexpected.

"I was like," Could there really be another? "" He said. LiveScience. "I got up from my desk and walked a bit through the corridors." The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters.


Topography of the Hiawatha crater and the area around it. / Goddard Space Center, Greenbelt Natural History Museum of Denmark, Cryospheric Science Laboratory, NASA

The new crater in comparison

The new crater has an extension of about 36 km, making it the twenty-first largest ever discovered on earth. For comparison: the Hiawatha has an extension of 31 kilometers.

In relation to the depth in which they are, the newly discovered crater is buried under 2 kilometers of ice. The Hiawatha, on the other hand, has a depth of 930 meters. Both craters are located in the northeast of Greenland

Determining the age of this new crater is a difficult task. The oldest layer of ice in this area dates back to almost 79,000 years ago; but the ice is flowing, so it is not a very important indicator. The team suggests that this crater would be between 100 million and 100,000 years old after estimating age due to the rate of erosion.

How did you find the crater?

To find the crater, the research team had to use satellite images of the Greenland glaciers and radar data collected by aircraft. The latter are quite useful because the radar waves hit the underground rock and return, so you know what goes through the ice.

The other data comes from satellites such as Terra and Aqua from NASA and the air reconnaissance program from IceBridge. It is important to mention that all these data are publicly available, so "everyone could have found this", as MacGregor says.


Topography of the surface of the new crater in Greenland / Joe MacGregor, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Adrian Díaz
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