A new impact crater was recently discovered under the Badin Jaran Desert in northwest China, but scientists have been searching for it for some time. Although it is much further north than expected, this could explain the presence of a naturally occurring type of glass, tektites, found in the area of Australia.
Tektite usually forms when an asteroid hits the Earth, melting the upper layers of the Earth’s crust and sending droplets of material into the atmosphere. It cools quickly and hardens, forming glassy tartlets.
The chemical composition and distribution of these rocks has already allowed scientists to find three impact craters in the world, one in the Chesapeake Bay in the United States, which dates back to 35 million years ago, and the Nordlinger Reis, in Germany, which formed 15 million years ago, and the most recent of them, 1 Million years ago, in Ghana, Lake Bosomtoy.
However, a large tektite field was found in the area of Australia, and until then the crater from which it originated was a mystery. Analysis of the rocks shows that it was formed about 800 thousand years ago, meaning that there is supposed to be a crater with a diameter of about 20 kilometers, given its relatively small composition.
Where is the hole?
Tektites from Australia are found in several regions of the Indian Ocean, Oceania, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and even Antarctica. This led the researchers to believe that the crater was nearby, and a basaltic plateau in Africa stretching between Cambodia and Laos was once thought to be the origin of the rock.
But now, gravity and magnetic data collected by satellites indicate the presence of a large impact structure in the Badin Jaran desert. Despite being located north of the area where the tektite was found, the movement of the sand dunes may explain why the crater was quickly buried and scientists fled.
According to the study, the earth quickly recovered from the collision, and formed a large elevation, almost the size of a mountain, in the place where the collision occurred. However, gravity data indicated that this feature was less dense than the surrounding regions, and magnetic data revealed anomalies that appeared to follow the crater’s edge. Both patterns are found in other impact structures.
To confirm whether this is indeed the origin of Australian tektites, researchers will now have to examine rocks from inside the crater.
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