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This image shows the crater Pwyll on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Do you see the pattern of concentric circles? This pattern is not typical of craters on Earth except for the newly discovered crater in the North Sea.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

A Crater on Earth that Looks out of this World!
News story originally written on August 14, 2002

Scientists studying the rock layers that lie under the North Sea have found a mysterious crater that looks more like craters on Europa and Callisto, icy moons of Jupiter, than craters on Earth.

The crater, called Silverpit, is under layers of rock in the North Sea, about 200 miles from the eastern coast of England. It is twelve miles (20 km) wide and has large concentric rings. A massive meteor about 400 feet across and weighing over 2 million tons would be needed to form a crater this large.

The odd shape of the crater, with its concentric rings, is puzzling to scientists who believe it looks much more like the craters on Europa and Castillo than craters on Earth. This gives scientists an opportunity to, while staying close to home, learn more about how craters form with these unique shapes. According to Jay Melosh, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, “Silverpit is likely to teach us a great deal about the mechanics of how such ring systems arise.”

The crater also interests scientists because its age. It is 60-65 million years old, which is similar to the age of the Chicxulub meteor impact that produced a climate change causing dinosaurs and many other living things to become extinct. Whether the newly discovered Silverpit crater is related to the extinction is unknown and more research is needed to examine this.


Last modified August 14, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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