New evidence suggests that the world’s largest known asteroid impact structure is buried deep in southeastern Australia

New evidence suggests that the world's largest known asteroid impact structure is buried deep in southeastern Australia


Acknowledgments: I want to thank my colleague Tony Yates, who pioneered the view of Deniliquin’s polycyclic construction as an impact construction – and who was instrumental on this work.

In current paper revealed by my colleague Tony Yates and I within the journal Tectonophysics, we investigated what we imagine – based mostly on a few years of expertise in asteroid influence analysis – is the world’s largest identified influence construction, buried deep underground in southern New South Wales.

Deniliquin’s construction, which has not but been examined by drilling, extends as much as 520 kilometers in diameter. This exceeds the dimensions of the practically 300-kilometre-wide Vredefort influence construction in South Africa, which is by far the most important on the earth.

Hidden Traces of Earth’s Early Historical past

The historical past of the bombing of the Earth by asteroids is essentially hidden. There are a number of causes for this. The primary is erosion: the method by which gravity, wind, and water slowly erode Earth’s supplies by means of time.

When an asteroid strikes, it creates a crater with a raised core. That is just like how a drop of water splashes upwards from a passing crater when a pebble falls right into a pond.

This raised central dome is a significant function of the massive influence constructions. Nonetheless, it could possibly erode over hundreds to thousands and thousands of years, making it tough to find out the construction.

Buildings can be buried by sediment by means of time. Or it could disappear on account of subduction, the place tectonic plates can collide and slide beneath one another within the Earth’s mantle layer.

Nonetheless, new geophysical discoveries are revealing the signatures of collision constructions fashioned by asteroids which will have reached tens of kilometers throughout – heralding a paradigm shift in our understanding of how Earth has advanced throughout eons. These embrace groundbreaking discoveries of influence “projectiles,” that are supplies which are thrown out of a crater throughout an influence.

Researchers imagine that the oldest layers of those projectiles, present in sediments in early terrains world wide, could sign the tail finish of the Earth’s late heavy bombardment. The newest proof signifies that Earth and different planets within the photo voltaic system had been subjected to intense bombardment by asteroids till about 3.2 billion years in the past, and intermittently since then.

Some important impacts are related to mass extinction occasions. For instance, the Alvarez speculation, named after father-son scientists Luis and Walter Alvarez, explains how non-avian dinosaurs had been worn out on account of a big asteroid influence some 66 million years in the past.

Deniliquin construction revealed

The Australian continent and its predecessor, Gondwana, have been the goal of a number of asteroid impacts. This has resulted in at the least 38 confirmed constructions and 43 doable impacts, starting from comparatively small craters to massive, utterly buried constructions.

This map exhibits the distribution of round constructions of unsure, possible or possible influence origin on the Australian continent and abroad. Inexperienced dots symbolize confirmed craters. The crimson dots symbolize confirmed influence constructions larger than 100 km large, whereas the crimson dots throughout the white circles are greater than 50 km large. Yellow dots symbolize potential trauma constructions. Andrew Glickson and Franco Bergano

As you will bear in mind with the puddle and pebbles analogy, when a big asteroid hits Earth, the core crust responds with a transient elastic bounce that leads to a central dome.

These domes, which might slowly erode and/or turn into buried over time, could also be all that’s preserved of the unique influence construction. It represents the deep rooted “root zone” of affect. Well-known examples are discovered within the Vredefort shock construction and the 170-kilometer-wide Chicxulub crater in Mexico. The latter represents the influence that induced the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Between 1995 and 2000, Tony Yates advised that magnetic patterns beneath the Murray Basin in New South Wales seemingly symbolize a large buried influence construction. Evaluation of geophysical knowledge up to date within the space between 2015 and 2020 confirmed the presence of a construction 520 kilometers in diameter with a seismically outlined dome at its heart.

Deniliquin’s construction has all of the options anticipated of a large-scale influence construction. For instance, magnetic readouts of the area reveal a symmetric ripple sample within the crust across the core of the construction. This seemingly occurred in the course of the influence because the extraordinarily excessive temperatures created intense magnetic forces.

The central low magnetic area corresponds to a 30 km-deep deformation above the seismically outlined mantle dome. The summit of this dome is about 10 km shallower than the summit of the regional mantle.

Magnetic measurements additionally present proof of ‘radial defects’: fractures radiating from the middle of a big influence construction. It’s also accompanied by small magnetic anomalies which may be igneous “dams”, that are sheets of magma injected into fractures in a pre-existing rocky physique.

The ‘whole magnetic depth’ picture of the Deniliquin influence construction exhibits a multi-ring sample with a diameter of 520 km, the central core, radial faults and the situation of the shallow drill holes. Knowledge from Geoscience Australia, revealed in Glikson and Yeates, 2022

Radial faults, the igneous sheets of rock that kind inside them, are typical of huge influence constructions and could be discovered within the Vredefort Construction and the Sudbury Impression Construction in Canada.

Presently, the majority of the proof for Deniliquin’s affect is predicated on geophysical knowledge obtained from the floor. To show the influence, we would want to gather bodily proof of the influence, which may solely come from drilling deep into the construction.

When did Deniliquin impact happen?

The Deniliquin construction seemingly existed within the jap a part of the Gondwana continent, earlier than it break up into a number of continents (together with the Australian continent) a while later.

The Deniliquin construction was more than likely created in jap Gondwana in the course of the Late Ordovician. Zhen Qiu et al, 2022, CC BY

The influence it induced could have occurred throughout what is named the Late Ordovician mass extinction. Particularly, I believe it could have triggered the so-called Hearnian glaciation section, which lasted between 445.2 and 443.8 million years in the past, and can be outlined because the Ordovician-Silurian extinction occasion.

This glacial occasion and big mass extinction worn out about 85% of the planet’s species. It was greater than twice as massive because the Chicxulub influence that killed the dinosaurs.

It’s also doable that the Deniliquin construction is older than the Hirnantian occasion, and could also be of historical Cambrian origin (about 514 million years in the past). The following step will probably be to gather samples to find out the precise age of the construction. This may require drilling a deep gap in its magnetic core and courting the extracted materials.

It’s hoped that additional research on the construction of the Deniliquin impact will make clear the character of historical Earth.


Andrew Glickson, Assistant Professor, UNSW Sydney

This text is republished from The Dialog beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.


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