The biggest, most violent asteroid crash in the history of the United Kingdom took place approximately 1.2 billion years ago.
The question is, where? While signs of the mile-wide asteroid's crash were discovered near Ullapool in 2008, experts have no idea of its precise location — until now.
Hunting For The Crater
Findings published in the Journal of the Geological Society revealed that the crash site has finally been found buried at sea in the Minch basin, which is a strait in northwest Scotland.
By combining different techniques of calculating the trajectory of rock fragments and alignment of magnetic particles, the team was able to estimate the direction of the meteorite and plot the likely location of the crater.
Discovered to be located underneath water and sediment, it's about 9 to 12 miles (15 to 20 kilometers) west of a remote part of the Scottish coast.
"The material excavated during a giant meteorite impact is rarely preserved on Earth, because it is rapidly eroded, so this is a really exciting discovery," study author Dr. Ken Amor from the Oxford University explained in a statement. "It was purely by chance this one landed in an ancient rift valley where fresh sediment quickly covered the debris to preserve it."
Amor told BBC News that the team is analyzing 1970 seismic surveys, but the quality is poor. Gravity data is also being studied.
The team will be following their research with a high-resolution geophysical survey in the vicinity of their target area in the basin.
Painting The Picture Of A 1.2-Billion-Year-Old Collision
At the time this particular meteor collided with the Earth, most of the planet's life were limited to the oceans. Back then, Scotland would have been closer to the equator with a semi-arid environment similar to Mars when it still featured surface water.
"It would have been quite a spectacle when this large meteorite struck a barren landscape, spreading dust and rock debris over a wide area," Amor continued.
Indeed, the collision was believed to be spectacular with the mile-wide meteorite crashing into the ground at 38,000 miles per hour. It left behind a massive crater with a width of about 12 miles.
Collisions with space rocks were much more common in the early solar system because debris left over from its formation were everywhere. However, there are limited records of similarly large impacts, because most craters have been destroyed over time by burial, erosion, and plate tectonics.