Researchers scouring Google Earth for impact craters have discovered a new one in Egypt, National Geographic reports. Dubbed the Kamil Crater, it is small but very special, because it really is new, in geological terms — just a few thousand years old. So new, in fact, that the elements have not yet been able to erode the ejecta rays. On site, the researchers have been able to collect thousands of space rocks.
These findings were published just yesterday in the journal Science. The full text article requires a subscription, but the supporting online material does not. This material includes satellite images of the crater that contain coordinate information.
A small impact crater discovered in the Egyptian desert could change estimates for impact hazards to our planet, according to a new study.
One of the best preserved craters yet found on Earth, the Kamil crater was initially discovered in February during a survey of satellite images on Google Earth. Researchers think the crater formed within the past couple thousand years.
The Italian-Egyptian team that found the crater in pictures recently visited and studied the 147-foot-wide (45-meter-wide), 52-foot-deep (16-meter-deep) hole. The team also collected thousands of pieces of the space rock that littered the surrounding desert.
Based on their calculations, the team thinks that a 4.2-foot-wide (1.3-meter-wide) solid iron meteor weighing 2,267 to 4,535 pounds (5,000 to 10,000 kilograms) smashed into the desert—nearly intact—at speeds exceeding 2.1 miles (3.5 kilometers) a second.
There are no hard numbers for how many meteors this size might currently be on a collision course with Earth, but scientists think the potential threats could be in the tens of thousands.
Current impact models state that iron meteors around this size and mass should break into smaller chunks before impact. (Related: “Comet ‘Shower’ Killed Ice Age Mammals?”)
Instead, the existence of the newfound crater implies that up to 35 percent of these iron giants may actually survive whole—and thus have greater destructive power.