A huge pit left by one of the giant known meteorites to hit the Earth may have finally been found in Laos after years of discovery.
Scientists know that a two-kilometre (1.2mile)-wide meteorite crashed into the Earth about 600,000 years ago, but the exact location of where it landed has been a mystery for decades.
However, there is now strong evidence to show that the crater may lie beneath lava in a 910 cubic kilometre area of a volcanic region in Laos, Southeast Asia, according to a new research paper.
The hidden impact crater is believed to be about 13 kilometres (8 mi) wide and 17 kilometres (10.5 mi) long, based on the calculations of the closed research team.
The researchers were led to the impact site by a set of small black glass objects called tektites, which scientists believe were formed from Earth materials that melted from the impact of meteorites.
Tektites ranging from 450,000 to 35,500,000 years old have been discovered throughout the planet in areas known as scattered areas, which can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Professor Kerry Sieh, the principal investigator for the Earth Observatory of Singapore who worked as one of the paper’s authors, told CNN that the existence of the objects meant the meteorites was “so massive and its velocity so fast that it melted the rocks I was able to hit it “.
Although scientists have been able to determine most of the source pits for tektites, the Australian territory that extends from southern China to southern Australia was a mystery.
Mr Sieh and his team believe that their research has identified the “best candidate yet” in the Australasian strewn area, which is the largest known tektite area and covers about 10 per cent of the Earth’s surface.
The paper’s author stated that there were several attempts to find the impact site, with suggestions ranging from northern Cambodia to central Laos and southern China.
“Our study has previously put together so many lines of evidence, ranging from the chemical nature of tektites to their physical characteristics, and the measurement of the bulk of the lava that the crater can bury,” said Mr Sieh.
However, he said that more research was needed to confirm the theory and that scientists would need to drill through volcanic rocks to see if they could find the kind of stones that are expected at an impact site.
Mr Sieh said it would “need to find plenty of evidence for melting and shattering.”
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal.
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