Massive Meteorite Crater Discovered Beneath Greenland's Ice

Is a crater still a crater if it has been filled with ice? According to NASA, the answer is yes, and a massive one has been discovered underneath ancient ice beneath Greenland. The Paris-sized crater was discovered with advanced radar technology back in 2015 and recently confirmed, the impact crater is located beneath the Hiawatha Glacier and measures over 980 feet deep and 19.3 miles wide. Not only is it the first of its kind found in Greenland, but it is among the 25 largest impact craters in the world and the first discovered under one of the planet’s ice sheets.

“Previous radar measurements of Hiawatha Glacier were part of a long-term NASA effort to map Greenland’s changing ice cover,” said Joe Macgregor, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Those initial measurements revealed a circular pattern near the edge of the ice sheet in the northwest region of the island where researchers have worked for the past three years to examine and confirm what they believed to be a large impact crater. “What we really needed to test our hypothesis was a dense and focused radar survey there,” Macgregor added. “The survey exceeded all expectations and imaged the depression in stunning detail: a distinctly circular rim, central uplift, disturbed and undisturbed ice layering, and basal debris – it’s all there.”

The team is still working on dating the crater, but they are confident that the meteorite that created it hit the area now known as Greenland less than 3 million years ago-maybe a lot less. “So far, it has not been possible to date the crater directly, but its condition strongly suggests that it formed after ice began to cover Greenland, so younger than three million years old and possibly as recently as 12,000 years ago – toward the end of the last ice age,” said co-author Kurt Kjaer. In the video below, NASA says that it is unlikely that another half-mile wide meteorite will strike Earth anytime soon, but they hope that studying recent impact craters like the one in Greenland is “essential to assessing the risk today.”