Huge 5,000-foot asteroid smashed into ancient Britain in ‘UK’s biggest meteorite collision ever’ – and experts warn it could happen again

A CRATER carved out by a 5,000-foot meteorite has been found in Scotland, marking the “biggest ever” asteroid collision in the UK.

Experts believe the catastrophic collision would’ve created a 9-mile fireball, devastating the landscape and generating winds of up to 450mph, The Sun can reveal.

The impact would’ve caused utter devastation for dozens of miles around the site

The impact is believed to have taken 1.2billion years ago, just off the northwest coast of Scotland.

And the crater remained “lost” until today because it’s buried beneath both water and younger rocks in the Minch Basin.

It’s also in a particularly remote part of the Scottish coastline – which actually helped preserve the crater’s condition.

“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,” said Dr Ken Amor, of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences.

This field photo taken at Stoer shows beds of sandstone – with the middle bed (12 metres thick) representing the “impact deposit”, containing ‘rafts’ of deformed pink sandstone
University of Oxford

“It was purely by chance this one landed in an ancient rift valley where fresh sediment quickly covered the debris to preserve it.”

Ken’s team mapped broken rock fragments and the alignment of magnetic particles to gauge the direction the meteorite material took at several locations.

This allowed them to plot the likely source of the crater, which was published in the Journal of the Geological Society.

According to Ken, the final crater was “excavated” in about two to three minutes.

It has a diameter of around 9.32 miles, and runs around 2,300 feet deep.

There were no humans around at the time, but if there had been, they would’ve witnessed utter carnage.

“The energy released during the collision would have been equivalent to 90 gigatonnes of TNT,” Ken told The Sun.

“A 14km wide fireball, lasting about 3 minutes would have marked the point of impact, as solid rock is converted instantaneously into vapour.”

At 100km away from the impact, the thermal radiation “would be sufficient to ignite paper and wood”.

And an airblast would have hit you “five minutes after impact with winds of over 450mph”.

The impact would even shake the earth: “A magnitude 7.9 (richter scale) seismic wave would arrive at our site 20 second after impact, causing significant structural damage to buildings – if they were around at the time, which they weren’t.”

These “spherules” form in the plume cloud from the impact, and were found in the “impact deposit” in Scotland
University of Oxford

What's the difference between an asteroid, meteor and comet?

Here's what you need to know, according to Nasa…

  • Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but they can be found anywhere (including in a path that can impact Earth)
  • Meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids
  • Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it begins to vapourise and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it’ll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up
  • Meteorite: If a meteoroid doesn’t vapourise completely and survives the trip through Earth’s atmosphere, it can land on the Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
  • Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun. However rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them (thanks to the ice and dust vapourising)

 

The crater is believed to be around 12-and-a-half miles due west of Lochinver, in the Minch between the Isle of Lewis and mainland Scotland.

It’s believed to be buried by more recent 150million-year-old sediments.

But at the time of impact, the meteorite’s “deposits” would’ve been spread far and wide across Scotland.

“The initial eject deposits arrive 2.4 minutes after impact,” Ken told us.

“At 100km distance a covering of 15cm is expected, the largest fragments about 10cm in diameter.

“Closer in the debris deposit is thicker and we have recorded thicknesses varying between 5 and 30 metres thick at the exposed outcrop on the Scottish coastline.”

Perhaps more worryingly, similar events could happen in the future.

“There is a possibility that a similar event will happen in the future given the number of asteroid and comet fragments floating around in the solar system,” researchers explained.

“Much smaller impacts, where the meteorite is only a few meters across are thought to be relatively common perhaps occurring about once every 25 years on average.”

Check out our full list of the asteroids that could crash into Earth.

Space experts recently revealed how a huge 164-foot asteroid could crash into Earth this year at 27,400mph.

And, a bizarre plot to move Earth by ‘slingshotting asteroids’ at us could prevent a fiery apocalypse.

Are you glad you weren’t around to see this impact? Let us know in the comments!


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