66 million years ago a 10 km asteroid hit the planet earth, near Yucatan, Mexico (creating the Chicxulub crater) and caused one of the biggest mass extinctions our world experienced (dinosaurs included).
But much longer ago, an even bigger impact and mass extinction happened. 250 million years ago 96% of all living species disappeared for good in the so-called “Great Dying“. The cause remained unknown, but now scientists may have found it and could be hidden underwater North West Falklands.
According to the research the diameter could be 250 km (50 times as bigger than the Mexican crater). Although there is no certainty yet, there are several evidence that could demonstrate the presence of one of the world’s largest impact crater.
Three scientists from USA, Argentina and Paraguay (Michael R. Rampino, Maximiliano C.L. Rocca and Jaime L. Báez Presser) teamed together to investigate the basin in Falkland islands and published their discovery in the Terra Nova journal.
But the story is quite old indeed and began in 1991. At the time, geologist Michael Rampino, from the New York University and working at NASA Doddard Institute for Space Studies, analysed the earth’s gravitational field and discovered a circular anomaly in the area. Rampino thought there might have been an impact crater bigger than the one in Yucatan, but he didn’t have further evidence and everything got forgotten…until now.
20 years later Argentinian Maximiliano Rocca, a passionate geologist, who loves to “hunt impact craters” in his spare time, start studying about the Falkland crater and in 2015 he managed to obtain updated data about the magnetic field in the area from Jaime Bàez Presser, a geophysicist from Paraguay.
With their resources combined, they discovered the shape of the anomaly: a rose, just like in the Chicxulub crater. And thanks to additional data from the oilfield services company Schlumberger and their seismic surveys, they also had the evidence of sediments variations in the basin, which was buried completely by sediments from more recent eras (a clear indication that the basin was formed long before its surroundings).
The team now hopes to attract the attention of some investors and collect enough funds to pay the expensive extraction of samples from the basin and their analysis. An operation that can clarify the age of the crater and give the definitive evidence of being the responsible of the “Great Dying”.
Only time can give us the answer. Will we live enough to hear it?