Researchers examining volcanic rocks find evidence of 60 million year old meteorite impact

Geologists exploring the Isle of Skye in Scotland were examining ancient volcanic rocks when they found minerals that have never before been seen on Earth.

Geologists exploring the Isle of Skye in Scotland were examining ancient volcanic rocks when they found minerals that have never before been seen on Earth. The minerals were previously recovered in space dust during the course of a previous NASA mission. The presence of the minerals in the volcanic rock indicated a previously unknown meteorite impact, about 60 million years ago. The finding came as a surprise to the researchers.

Image: Simon Drake/Birkbeck, Univeristy of London

Image: Simon Drake/Birkbeck, Univeristy of London

Dr Andy Beard from Birkbeck, University of London said, "When we discovered what it was we were very surprised, and it was a bit of a shock because we were not expecting that." The minerals, vanadium-rich and niobium rich osbornite was found while examining the volcanic rocks under an electron microscope. The osbornite was found in an unmelted form, which indicates that it was probably a piece of the original meteorite.

The finding raises some interesting questions, such as if similar mineral forms can be found in other places in the region, where exactly the meteorite hit, and if the impact was related to the volcanic activity that is known to have occurred around the same time.

Similar minerals were found at a second site, at a distance of about seven kilometres from the location of the original discovery.

The Isle of Skye has been thoroughly explored by geologists, which makes the finding even more surprising. The area in which the minerals were found was pretty rough, with the terrain being rough, steep and marshy. The researchers were waist deep in mud when the volcanic rock samples were recovered.

The team has published their findings in the scientific journal, Geology.

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