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Finding the crater of the asteroid that struck Earth 789 thousand years ago

Finding the crater of the asteroid that struck Earth 789 thousand years ago

A study provides clues to where an asteroid could have struck Earth 789,000 years ago. The researchers point out that several remains of the celestial body were found spread across Southeast Asia, but the crater corresponding to the impact was located in southern Laos, one of the countries in the region.

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Signs of an asteroid impact are widespread

  • Known as tektites, they are black glassy rocks up to a few centimeters in size that formed after the asteroid impact and spread as far as Madagascar, Africa and Antarctica.
  • This material is young enough to still be visible in many places, and has helped researchers map the impact site.
  • This is because geological processes eventually bury key evidence of such cases.
  • There have been decades of searching for the crater.
  • The information is from IFLScience.
Asteroid crater location (Image: Sieh et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2023)

Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos

Perhaps it is the combination of geological conditions, dense rainforests and one of the most politically isolated countries in the world that has kept the site hidden for so long. A team led by Professor Kerry Seah from Nanyang Technological University noted that “unexploded ordnance has hampered fieldwork for decades” following the wars in the region.

However, some secrets may have been lost forever. As early as 1983, gravel deposits just below the tektite were observed in Vietnam. The most accepted theory is that material was thrown into the area as a result of the asteroid impact.

With these clues, researchers reached the southern region of Laos and identified a layer of rocks formed from ancient sandstone and basalt lava. Ultimately, they concluded that the crater was located within the Bolaven volcanic field.

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They claim that although tektite has been found thousands of kilometers away, it is more abundant in that region. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.