New research indicates that the Wolfe Creek Crater, positioned on the margin of the Great Sandy Desert in northern Western Australia is was formed way later on than earlier believed.
The crater, known to Aboriginal people as Kandimalal, is the second-largest crater in the world in which meteorite elements have been discovered.
Geologists believe Wolfe Creek Crater was molded into its current form by the impact of a meteor approximately 50 feet (15 meters) in diameter and weighing about 15,000 U.S. tons (14,000 metric tons).
However, the precise period of the impact has not been determined, even though previous calculations have indicated the crater could be around 300,000 years old. Even so, a new study published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science suggests that the collision happened way more recently, only around 120,000 years ago.
Wolfe Creek Crater Has a New Age
The team of scientists, from Australia and the U.S., have estimated the new age of the crater utilizing two different dating methods. The first one involved collecting samples from around the Wolfe Creek Crater’s edge and implemented the technique known as exposure dating, which measures the period that a rock has been set out at the Earth’s surface to cosmic radiation.
They could then estimate the age through another dating method known as optically stimulated luminescence, a technique utilized to calculate the time it passed since the sediment was exposed to sunlight, on sand earthed after the collision.
The study suggests that the maximum width of the Wolfe Creek Crater is a bit over half a mile (946 meters) in a northeast-southwest direction, showing the course of the collision; the medium diameter is 2,927 feet (892 meters). The team also said that the crater is approximately 580 feet (178 meters) deep, and is crammed up by around 400 feet (120 meters) of sediment, mainly sand winded from the desert.
Meteor Impacts Happen Quite Often
As per the research team, Wolfe Creek Crater is one of seven pairs of impact craters in Australia alone, whose age is estimated to be no longer than 120,000 years. Based on this information, the geologists calculated how regularly these events that form craters take place. Tim Barrows of the University of Portsmouth, the geologist that led the study said in a statement:
”Although the rate is only one large meteor hitting Australia every 17,000 years, it isn’t that simple. The craters are only found in the arid parts of Australia.”
“Taking into account that arid Australia is only about one percent of the surface, the rate increases to one hitting the Earth every 180 years or so,” he explained.