Measuring 31 kilometers across, a crater the size of Paris was unearthed in Greenland where it lay hidden 930 meters beneath the Hiawatha glacier for over ten thousand years.
“The crater is exceptionally well preserved and that is surprising because the ice of the glacier is an incredibly efficient erosive agent that would have quickly eliminated the traces of the impact,” said lead glaciologist Kurt Kjaer from the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.
Using an airborne ice-penetrating radar, scientists were able to determine that the geological depression was left by a meteor that slammed into the earth at an incredible 20 km per second roughly 13,000 years ago and is among the world’s largest 25 craters.
“You have to go back 40 million years to find a crater of the same size, so this is a rare, rare occurrence in Earth’s history,” said Kjae, adding that the young crater likely predates the Pleistocene age, closer to the end of the last ice age.
Scientists estimate the meteorite measured approximately 1.5 kilometers and was large enough to cause extreme changes to the environment across the northern hemisphere.
The research team first happened on the depression in 2015 while scanning the region during NASA’s Operation IceBridge.
“We live on a planet where you can survey anything and you think you know everything. But when you see such a big thing as this hiding in plain sight, you realize that the age of discovery is not over yet,” Kjae said.
Co-author on the study Joseph MacGregor said the crater is “a straight-up exciting discovery. … We’re just happy not to have to keep it a secret anymore.”
The team of researchers are still determining the incident’s precise date using sediment samples, ice-flow simulators, and possible cores taken from inside the crater.