An international team of researchers revealed a giant meteorite impact crater is hidden beneath a half-mile of an ice sheet.
First discovered in 2015, the team discovered the impact crater in northwest Greenland using data from NASA. It took the team three years to verify its existence and size.
A paper was submitted to the journal Science Advances.
Giant Impact Crater Found Under Ice
The researchers first detected the impact crater while studying satellite data from NASA's Operation IceBrige, a multi-year project that used ice-penetrating radar to track changes in the polar ice in Greenland. To confirm its existence, a German research plane equipped with a new type of high-powered ice radar to map the suspected impact crater in stunning detail.
The impact crater is right under the Hiawatha Glacier. At 19 miles wide and 1,000 feet deep, the impact crater is one of the biggest in the history of the world and the first to be found under thick ice sheets.
The researchers claim that the impact crater is big enough to "swallow" Washington D.C.
Meteorite Impact In Greenland
According to the paper, the crater was formed less than 3 million years ago when an iron meteorite that is about half-a-mile wide struck Earth. In fact, Kurt Kjær, the lead author of the study and a professor at the Center for geoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, said that the impact might have happened toward the end of the last ice age.
He explained that the impact crater was perfectly preserved under all the ice — a surprise considering that glacier ice is an erosive agent. He added that the newly-discovered impact crater is one of the youngest on the planet.
How The Meteorite Impact Affected The Planet
The researchers spent three years confirming and studying the impact crater, but their work is not done yet. Their next mission is to figure out how the meteorite impact affected its surroundings and the world.
Earlier studies claim that large impacts can alter the planet's climate and the meteorite that hit the Earth might have had the force of 700 megaton warhead. Its arrival did not only left a mark in Greenland but shook the entire planet while sending rocky debris as far as North America and Europe. It might have also caused the ice age to extend for another 1,000 years.
"The next step in the investigation will be to confidently date the impact," revealed Professor Kjær. "his will be a challenge, because it will probably require recovering material that melted during the impact from the bottom of the structure, but this is crucial if we are to understand how the Hiawatha impact affected life on Earth."