ScienceShot: A Well-Preserved Meteor Impact

22 July 2010 2:00 pm

At only 16 meters deep and 45 meters wide, you wouldn't call the Kamil Crater in the southwest corner of Egypt "Deep Impact". Indeed, there are much more massive and impressive meteor craters scarring the Earth. Yet this small but perfectly preserved depression, discovered in 2009 during a Google Earth survey, is a rare beauty. There are currently 176 known craters on Earth's surface, of which only 15 are less than 300 meters wide—but all of these small craters have rapidly eroded and lost most of their original features. The Kamil Crater, however, has been well preserved, with the radial streaks of ejecta thrown out during impact still visible. And that's giving scientists a unique opportunity to study the characteristics of small-scale meteor impacts, researchers report online today in Science. The crater is in such pristine condition because it is geologically young (current estimates put the age at less than 5000 years) and because it escaped significant weathering, as it formed when extremely arid conditions were already prevalent in this remote part of Egypt. Craters like this one are typically found on planetary bodies in the Solar System that don't have atmospheres and therefore no weather systems to erode them.

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