back to article HUGE Aussie asteroid impact sent TREMORS towards the EARTH'S CORE

Australia is home to the largest asteroid impact crater on Earth. The 400km-wide crater is more than twice the size of the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, which is often attributed with wiping out the dinosaurs. The new find in the Warburton Basin in Central Australia is a stunning 400km-wide impact zone from a huge asteroid that …

  1. Tim Brown

    Devonian?

    Wonder if it could be responsible (or partly) for the late Devonian extinction event. That occurred around 375–360 million years ago, so could fit the timing of this impact.

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: Devonian?

      Or the Ordovician–Silurian events? They were about 450–440 million years ago, so their timings could also fit.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Devonian?

      There is a few more options.

      We may be overestimating the effect of the asteroid and underestimating the effect of other factors. The Cretaceous extinction event coincides with the Deccan traps eruption. According to quite a few palaeontologists and geologists, the unpronounceable and unspellably named boulder hitting the gulf of Mexico is just the "final straw". The extinction was already on the way courtesy of the Deccan traps. It only accelerated it.

      The great dying before that (240M years ago) coincided with a similar eruption (in Siberia if memory serves me right). And so on.

      Also, it depends on how it hit - angle, velocity, etc and what did it hit - shallow sea, earth, etc. Dunno, it will take quite a lot of digging until this gets into the textbooks on par with Chicxulub. I just hope they do not name it as unpronounceably too.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Devonian?

        There is also one more thing to keep in mind... the high speed impact of a very large rock with the planet's surface will trigger immense shockwaves which will also trigger volcanic activity elsewhere.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Devonian?

          I've sometimes wondered of the Deccan traps event was caused by the Yucatan impact - they're about 180º apart on the opposite side of the planet. I can imagine a simplified model of the earth's structure that would allow this but can't see how it could be propagated through the planet as we envisage it.

      2. cray74

        Re: Devonian?

        "angle, velocity, etc and what did it hit"

        There's only a limited range of velocities for most asteroids (vs comets) hitting a planet: 1x to 2x the planet's escape velocity. An asteroid approaching a planet from "astern" will probably have a low initial velocity relative to the planet and be accelerated to the planet's escape velocity by the time it hits. Crossing and head-on impacts add the asteroids' higher relative initial velocity to the planet's escape velocity, but such asteroids - given the range of asteroid velocities in the Solar system - aren't going to be much higher than Earth's escape velocity.

        Comets have a wider range of velocities because they pick up quite a head of steam as the drop into the inner system.

        1. WalterAlter

          Re: Devonian?

          They also pick up quite a head of charge differential from the Solar Electric Current, I mean Solar "Wind", and can make a really big spark upon entering a vapor rich atmosphere, really big. No, I mean really really big.

      3. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Devonian?

        @Voland RH

        OK, you and I have problems with chicklechub. It all depends what language you grew up with. And whether you like using two prepositions to end a sentence with.

        Just ask ze olientals.

        1. cortland

          Re: Devonian?

          "Chicks-hoo-loob" works, tho. Just don't correct the spelling

      4. breakfast

        Re: Devonian?

        From what I can tell it is not impossible that the Deccan Traps were antipodal to Chicxulub- the asteroid hits and pushes such a forceful wave through the planet's core that it bursts out at the nearest available point on the other side. If this was to be correct then the Siberian Traps may be antipodal to another impact somewhere in the southern hemisphere. I don't know how Siberia and Australia were positioned relative to one another at that time, though.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Devonian?

          Most of the output of the Deccan Traps is under the Iridium layer, so comet causing the eruptions can be safely be ruled out.

          Current hypothesis is that the Traps were erupting for quite some time before the Chicxulub strike, with fossil evidence supporting the idea - there was a dieoff underway for some period before the iridium layer appeared.

          Under normal circumstances, Chicxulub should not have been a global extinction level event, even with the added input of the Deccan Traps. The final straw is that at the time it was a shallow sea with a _huge_ layer of limestone underneath and most of that got vaporised, putting an enormous CO2 pulse into the atmosphere along with billions of tons of water vapour.

          This underscores that it's just as important where a rock hits as to the size of it (Modelling large ones shows that land strike = bad, open ocean strike = worse, shallow sea/continental shelf = even worse still)

          For local extinction levels, there may not even be an observable crater. There at least one hypothesis that the younger dryas dieoff in north america was caused by a fragmenting comet skimming the atmosphere, generating a shitload of airbursts that effectively sterilised the surface - https://craterhunter.wordpress.com/ - I can't fault the idea and there does seem to be a fair bit of supporting evidence including melted rock formations in Mexico which appear to have been windblown into their current shapes whilst molten.

          As others have said, the australian crater was known, but not the multiple large lumps. It's probably not large enough to have caused a global extinction level event though, especially given that life at the time was extremely simple.

          The Deccan traps aren't the only ones associated with a dieoff - the much older Siberian traps are also about the same age as a dieback.

          Personally I wouldn't be surprised if most of the larger craters caused by fragmented impacts rather than a single solid one - Shoemaker-Levi9 serves as a good observed example - but they're generally so badly eroded that it's impossible to tell.

          From a human point of view, extinction level events aren't needed to wipe out civilisation. There are plenty of rocks whizzing around the inner solar system which are large enough to do the job and enough of them come worryingly close each decade that as a species, we really should be making plans to get off this planet.

      5. Nigel 11

        Re: Devonian?

        The Chicxulub impactor was particularly devastating because of where it struck, on thick strata of both carbonate rocks and gypsum (calcium sulphate). Vaporised, these injected vast amounts of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The sulphur dioxide would have formed sulphuric acid clouds that would have reflected much sunlight, causing far worse global cooling than mere dust from silicate rocks. Over the next decade it came back down as acid rain. And then after a brief spike of global cooling, the sulphur was gone leaving the carbon dioxide to caues global warming. This massive two-way fluctuation was probably the last straw for lumbering great dinosaurs. (The small flying ones did survive - we now call them birds).

        This on top of a global environment already seriously degraded by the Deccan Traps erruptions.

      6. BlartVersenwaldIII

        Re: Devonian?

        Not just the geological effects either - there was quite a lot going on leading up to the extinction of the dinosaurs whose numbers were in decline long before the deccan traps and the KT event. One of the hypotheses I found very interesting was the possibility that the appearance and rapid spread of the grasses and hardwood trees 100-60Ma ago reduced the amount of food available to the dinosaurs, since they're much more herbivore-resistant.

        In essence, big-ass rocks falling out of the sky are pretty terrifying but you'd best be nice to your lawn.

    3. Davey1602

      Re: Devonian?

      I'm not really up on Archaeological Science, but it does continue to suggest that the evolution of all life on this planet has been set back a good few times. Who knows what could have arisen in the present day if it were not for things like this?

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: Devonian?

        "Who knows what could have arisen in the present day if it were not for things like this?"

        Or might not have arisen. Each extinction event led to evolutionary radiation as life recovered. Without the extinctions life would have been more stable and fewer new designs would have appeared. For instance the mammals got nowhere until the dinosaurs were removed.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: Devonian?

          Without the extinctions life would have been more stable and fewer new designs would have appeared. For instance the mammals got nowhere until the dinosaurs were removed.

          So David Icke was almost right! We very nearly were ruled by 19 foot tall lizards...

          1. JonP
            Joke

            Re: Devonian?

            So David Icke was almost right! We very nearly were ruled by 19 foot tall lizards...

            so? he was only off by ~13 feet!

          2. Sealand
            Coat

            Re: Devonian?

            Whenever I think along the lines of 'no extinction events along the way', I always end up with the vision of a T-rex with a bow tie and a laser gun.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Devonian?

              I always end up with the vision of a T-rex with a bow tie and a laser gun.

              Weird. I always think of T. Rex as more the bolo-tie sort.

          3. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Devonian?

            So David Icke was almost right! We very nearly were ruled by 19 foot tall lizards...

            That and we would have been 19 foot tall lizards......

      2. EddieD

        Re: Devonian?

        To quote one evolutionary biolgist "We don't need to theorise what would have happened if dinosaurs had evolved brains, we can just look at crows"

        1. Bunbury

          Re: Devonian?

          surprised that a biologist thinks that dinosaurs didn't have brains. Did they have another explanation for the big cavity in the skull?

          1. earl grey Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Devonian?

            " Did they have another explanation for the big cavity in the skull?"

            Politicianasaurus

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Devonian?

          "We don't need to theorise what would have happened if dinosaurs had evolved brains, we can just look at crows"

          That doesn't really work though. The evolutionary pressure was different after the extinctions.

          Beforehand, there was evolutionary advantage in biggness - and being good at eating other things. So we had plenty of hugeosauruses and hungrysauruses. But was there an evolutionary niche for a brainysaurus? Someting like the Jurassic Park version of the velociraptor perhaps? Mid-sized, so needs to use other abilities to avoid getting eaten. By cooperative hunting perhaps, which might lead to the development of language and tool using. Given the right physical evolution. Just think how much better the Natural History Museum would be, if some of the dinosaurs were carrying rifles?

          1. Mister_C

            Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

            "Just think how much better the Natural History Museum would be, if some of the dinosaurs were carrying rifles"

            Ichthyosaurs with frikkin lasers, methinks

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

              Hypothetically, if a group of dinosaurs had developed technology, there would be little or no evidence of it.

              If we were wiped out today by a big flying rock the only proof that we ever existed on this planet, after a few million years, would be chunks of kit we lobbed off of it.

              Anyone spotted any dino-tech on the moon?

              1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

                Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                @Dewix

                I would have thought that pottery and reinforced concrete would survive. Have not heard of any being found, though.

                Also remnants of diamond jewellery.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                  Diamonds aren't very big, tend to be brittle & can be erroded and what connects them would dissolve or corroded in a blink of a geological eye.

                  Pottery has a hard enough time trying to survive a mere couple of thousand years.

                  Concrete seems to rot pretty quick in geological terms and how would a future society distinguish concrete from a compressed water bed?

                  As a species we've only been kicking around for a blink of an eye compared the our lizard forebears, which means less opportunities for stuff to find its way into the strata thus increasing the likelihood of a future species discovering our existence. The moon buggys had the best chance of being discovered because it is in a safe, oxygen deprived, geologically stable place with little or no environmental mechanical wear. The real sod would be that the future species would need to spot it, after all its a big rock a long way away.

                  1. Nigel 11

                    Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                    Fossil remains of civilisation: the ones that you will find intact in vast quantities after tens of millions of years are fired clay artefacts. House-bricks and pottery, complete with maker's marks and glazed decorations.

                    Many other things will fossilize like shells: the original will disappear but the hole in the rock will fill with some other mineral (often quartz, calcite or iron pyrites). This will include some truly vast fossils: sewage pipes and railway tunnels!

                    Gold and silver jewellery will survive but whethre any will be found is quite anothr matter. There's not enough of it.

                  2. Hollerith 1

                    Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                    Pottery lasted forever. Forever. Admittedly in shards, but once a pot is made, the shards stay until the earth is no more. Go to any ancient site and you will see. I have walked the acres of Sarai (capitol of the Golden Horde), as an example, and the pottery shards on the surface are like a gravel drive. And that's just the loose stuff. There are Greek sites and Cathagenian sites with the same density, if they've not been dug up and built over.

              2. Stuart 22

                Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                "Anyone spotted any dino-tech on the moon?"

                Might it resemble a WW2 bomber?

                1. Bunbury

                  Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                  Elvisaurus

              3. AndrueC Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                Hypothetically, if a group of dinosaurs had developed technology, there would be little or no evidence of it.

                This forms part of the basis behind a pleasantly readable science-fiction book called Toolmaker Koan. There's one scene where the humans are working with the 'aliens' onboard their ark looking at a map of modern Earth and suddenly the moon comes into view. The 'aliens' recognise it and realise that their ark didn't carry them very far after all. Quite poignant.

              4. dogged

                Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                > Anyone spotted any dino-tech on the moon?

                Iron Sky 2, anyone?

              5. jonfr

                Re: Devonian? @ ~Spartacus

                @ Dewix

                I don't know how fast material degrade in space. What I do material in space does degrade with time. If any reptile type of civilization was in place all its monuments on Earth are long since turned into dust.

                As for space, there is always a chance something might remain, while not in working state, at least in highly degraded state. If this actually happened I don't know, the interesting fact however is that it only took the human race around 10 million years to evolve to current state. So this might have happened more than once and more than twice. Since 65 million years is a long time.

      3. AndrueC Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Devonian?

        I'm not really up on Archaeological Science, but it does continue to suggest that the evolution of all life on this planet has been set back a good few times.

        99% of species that have existed have gone extinct. Makes ya think a bit that does. My thought is 'it's time we got off this rock' ;)

      4. WalterAlter
        Devil

        Re: Devonian?

        And God went: "Whatever doesn't kill them makes them stronger". Snicker.

  2. Graham Marsden
    Alert

    All I can say is...

    ... Strewth!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sensational

    The impact site was already well known, but the extra impactor was not. Is that what this is all about? The tone of the article suggests it's all a completely new discovery.

    1. easyk

      Re: Sensational

      You may have known but in scientific journalism nothing really exists until it is published.

  4. hekla

    Snowball Earth Explained

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_Earth happened about 600My so here is an explanation

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Re: Snowball Earth Explained

      Not only do you use Wikifailure as your source, you even manage to get the "data" from Wikifailure wrong: it says earlier than 650 Mya which puts your snowball outside the age range of these impacts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Snowball Earth Explained

      for a proper academic paper on the Snowball phenomena then this may be of use.

      http://web.gps.caltech.edu/~jkirschvink/pdfs/firstsnowball.pdf

      It is the second paper of the 83 listed in the bibliography of the wikipedia article

  5. Chairo

    Of course

    concerning deadly animals and other natural events, Australia cannot be beaten by Mexico.

    On a more serious note - there have been quite a lot of mass extinctions in the past. This one could be connected with the P-T event 250 million years ago, also called the "Great Dying". Until someone figures out the exact age of the impact this is all speculation, of course.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two huge deep bulges.....

    .....did god sit down and take a rest on day 7?

    [this is a joke, like religion]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two huge deep bulges.....

      Maybe he had to take a duce?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two huge deep bulges.....

      Or the first attempt to bowl a googly?

    3. Astarte

      Re: Two huge deep bulges.....

      If sufficient research is ever carried out they might find evidence that the larger impact was the result of an innocent Sperm Whale impact. The other crater will, of course, contain residue from a bowl of Petunias. Not impossible - just infinitely improbable.

  7. MrDamage

    Broke into 2 pieces?

    Nah. More likely it bounced off one of our bloody huge spiders and landed a second time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More likely it bounced ...

      Ah. So it was an early test run for Philae, before someone suggested that maybe it should be miniaturized.

  8. Christopher Lane
    Joke

    Or...

    ...the anchoring harpoons of some alien lander didn't fire, it bounced and then ran out of battery?

  9. Hairless Biker
    Mushroom

    Now we know...

    where the elephant hit.

    Expect the deep level tallows to be contaminated by large quantities of BCBs.

    Where's my Wizard's Staff icon?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Now we know...

      Personally, I'm much more interested in finding a treacle mine.

    2. Panicnow

      Re: Now we know...

      Surely the whales, the petunias would not have made much of an impression

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Now we know...

      I thought it hit somewhere in Lancre, not in the middle of the Last Continent.

      Anyway, I can go consult the library, just need to be sure that I do not ask any questions about DANGEROUS ANIMALS as this may result in me being burried under an avalanche of books.

  10. Ralph B
    Trollface

    Explanation

    > we can’t find an extinction event that matches these collisions

    Not surprising, surely. Nothing that happens in Australia ever has any impact in the rest of the world.

  11. Hasham
    Boffin

    Finally!

    Bronze Age Collapse explained.

    The boffins are off on their age estimations by a few hundred million years, naturally.

  12. Bunbury

    Looks like the mother ship is still there...

    "Geophysical modelling of the Cooper Basin, which overlies the eastern Warburton East Basin, suggests existence of a body of high-density (~ 2.9–3.0 gr/cm3) and high magnetic susceptibility (SI ~ 0.012–0.037) at a depth of ~ 6–10 km at the centre of the anomalies. "

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Looks like the mother ship is still there...

      It's a rule of science fiction that anyone who drills into the earth's crust in order to do 'geothermal research', is either lying and it's actually a secret government project to cause earthquakes, or dies horribly due to alien/supernatural horrors hiding at the bottom of their shafts.

      It's a bit like going to an old isolated house/castle for help after your car has broken down in the rain. Something you just shouldn't do.

      1. Vic
        Alien

        Re: Looks like the mother ship is still there...

        It's a bit like going to an old isolated house/castle for help after your car has broken down in the rain.

        "You've arrived on a rather special night. It's one of the Master's ... affairs"...

        Vic.

    2. Lobstonicus
      Alien

      Re: Looks like the mother ship is still there...

      ...or the Monolith.

  13. Stoneshop Silver badge

    Chicxulub

    "That is not an asteroid impact crater, THIS is an asteroid impact crater"

    1. Ben Bonsall

      Re: Chicxulub

      That's not an asteroid impact crater, it was made with a spoon.

      1. BlartVersenwaldIII

        Re: Chicxulub

        You've clearly never played Chicxulubby-Spoony before.

        And I couldn't let that go by without mentioning one of my favourite Fast Show sketches courtesy of Carl Hooper. Please don't click if you might be offended by some brits doing aussie accents and a few colourful metaphors.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAj7S7lyHdA

  14. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

    Silly question .... how old is the moon?

    If memory serves, wasn't there an impact that cause the earth to spew forth rock that eventually became the moon?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Silly question .... how old is the moon?

      Any Earth collision that formed the moon would have happened much, much earlier. That kind of impact would have wiped out all life except possibly for a few very resilient bacteria, and there would be very little record of anything that happened before it.

    2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Silly question .... how old is the moon?

      I thought about this, too. But then it occurred to me that Moon would have been formed over 4 billions years ago, when Earth did not even had (much of) crust. It must have been all pretty fluid at the time, which is exactly what allowed the Moon to form into a nice round shape - and Earth not to lose its round shape, too.

    3. Bunbury

      Re: Silly question .... how old is the moon?

      well not exactly "spew forth". The theory is that early on in the solar systems the proto-earth collided with another planet, smashing and liquidising both and that the remains formed the earth/moon combo. But that is far, far earlier than this. The moon was then liberally clobbered by impacts in the period known as the late heavy bombardment. The earth would have been as well but that was circa 4,000 MY back.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: Silly question .... how old is the moon?

        Wow, I don't know why I was down voted, because I did say it was a silly question.

        Oh well.

        Here's another silly question.

        We know that the continents (land masses) have shifted to their current position today from where they would have been millions of years ago. Would it matter where the asteroid hit? In lets say a center of a plate compared to an edge?

        Again, I haven't a clue, just asking...

  15. Chris G Silver badge

    Bloody big rock

    I bet that annoyed the turtles, it could have unbalanced them.

  16. Stuart Moore
    WTF?

    CRACKS near the EARTH'S CORE

    What does that headline actually mean? How in any sense are these cracks near the Earth's core? Yes they go 20km down, but that really isn't significant. It is like saying Wales is near the USA because from the perspective of England they're in the same direction!

    The story is interesting enough without that. These lying headlines make me distrust the rest of the article.

  17. russell 6

    Could be a good place to mine for diamonds?

    That amount of concentrated heat and pressure. I'm not a geologist but it got me wondering....

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Could be a good place to mine for diamonds?

      Another use for concentrated heat and pressure is as a quicker way of cooking steak and kidney pudding. So hungry diamond miners might hope for that as well.

  18. Florida1920
    Paris Hilton

    If an asteroid falls on Oz

    and there's nothing alive to hear it.....

  19. john devoy

    Isn't the velocity as important than the size?

    1. Simon Watson
      Joke

      I heard how it moves is more important than the size. Or was that something else.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Velocity?

      KE = 1/2 mv^2

      So velocity matters, but what's the variance among the asteroids hitting the earth these days?

      I'd imagine that there's not much difference...

  20. cd

    Perhaps it is a remnant of an infection event rather than an extinction event.

  21. Eclectic Man

    Dinosaur technology remains

    Dewix > "Diamonds aren't very big, tend to be brittle & can be erroded and what connects them would dissolve or corroded in a blink of a geological eye."

    However, zirconia are very robust, many having survived repeated tectonic activity. So, althogh also tiny, a cut and fashioned zircon gemstone could theoretically survive the many millions of years necesary to provide evidence of dinosaur techniloigcal advancement. Assuking they wore jewellery.

    http://www.amnh.org/education/resources/rfl/web/essaybooks/earth/cs_zircon_chronolgy.html

    > "a few grains of zircon found in the early 1990s in a sandstone from western Australia dates back 4.2–4.3 billion years"

    1. BlartVersenwaldIII

      Re: Dinosaur technology remains

      > Assuking they wore jewellery

      Ridiculous. They didn't even have opposable thumbs, how would they even put on a ring? Or earrings without ears? Belly button piercings on a reptile? Complete and utter nonsense!

      Those Triassic Swarovski crystal salad bowls however are a dead giveaway, not to mention the collectible "Triceratops Toddlers" figurines unearthed in Cretaceous shales. Jewellery no but they were first on the planet to have their civilisation collapse due to a Franklin Mint Horizon.

  22. Honest

    I love all the imagination flowing here but you guys do realize that since DNA was discovered and has been well studied, that organisms do not evolve upward? We are way past the "simple cell that evolved in a pool of goo". It has been extensively observed and quite well documented that mutations are not positive and uplifting (please don't tell me about computer models that show an upward march toward perfection, lets just stay with observable science). It has also been observed that our human DNA is degrading not improving (this is one of the reasons why we should not have children with our siblings). We currently use science to identify ways of keeping us healthier and better nourished but on a cellular level we are headed for destruction. But dreaming is what we humans do and the imagination is a wonderfully creative thing. Let's just keep perspective and leave the dogma behind.

    1. Stuart Moore
      Paris Hilton

      [citation needed]

  23. Queasy Rider

    there's no layer of sedimentary ash...

    ...because maybe the asteroid arrived so early that there was nothing on earth to burn.

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