A giant hole estimated to be 80 meters wide has mysteriously appeared in Siberia's Yamal peninsula, an oil-rich region whose name translates to "end of the world."

The mysterious hole is believed to have formed about two years ago but attention has just been drawn to it after it was spotted and videotaped by passengers of a helicopter that passed over the region. Images and reports about the crater have surfaced earlier but these were initially dismissed and suspected as a hoax.

It isn't yet clear what caused the sudden appearance of the crater but scientists and even believers of alien life, who suggested that the hole could be an evidence of a UFO arrival, are not short of speculations.

Theories included a meteorite hitting the earth and creating the giant crater, and that the puncture could be a sinkhole that formed because the rock beneath it collapsed.

Anna Kurchatova, from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center, believes the hole was formed by a mixture of water, salt and gas that caused an underground explosion, a phenomenon that she said may have been the result of global warming. Kurchatova said that global warming has melted the permafrost, which released gas that caused an effect comparable to that of the popping of the Champagne bottle cork.

Chris Fogwill, from the University of New South Wales, on the other hand, opined that the crater may be what is left of a pingo, a dome of earth with core that is made up of ice. When the ice inside the mound of soil melts, the dome could collapse into a volcano-shaped hill. Fogwill said that if the pingo melted and it was big enough, it could have possibly created a giant hole.

"Certainly from the images I've seen it looks like a periglacial feature, perhaps a collapsed pingo," Fogwill said. "This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there's been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there."

Yamal authorities have already organized an expedition to the crater. The expedition team, which is expected to arrive at the area of Wednesday, includes experts from the Center for the Study of the Arctic and from the Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The team intends to take samples of water, air and soil from the scene, which could possibly shed light on the mystery of the giant hole.

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