Scientists Use Google Earth to Spot a Meteor Crater in Egypt

By Joseph Calamia | July 23, 2010 11:28 am

meteor-crater1Kamil crater, at only about 150 feet wide and 50 feet deep, may not break any size records–but what the Egyptian crater lacks in range it makes up for with cleanliness. In an paper published yesterday in Science, researchers say that its “pristine” impact, spotted in 2009 during a Google Earth survey, makes the crater an ideal model to understand similar impacts.

The best place to see a clean crater? Rocky or icy planets without an atmosphere. Earth’s weather quickly erodes a crater’s structures, making it difficult to determine how exactly a meteorite struck. The Kamil crater, study leader Luigi Folco says, has avoided this fate:

“This crater is really a kind of beauty because it’s so well-preserved that it will tell us a lot about small-scale meteorite impacts on the Earth’s crust…. It’s so nice. It’s so neat. There is something extraordinary about it.” []

meteor-crater2The crater rises above its desert surroundings, and during visits to the site over the past two years researchers have collected around 5,000 iron meteorites (the dark rocks pictured at right). They estimate that the original meteorite weighed between 5 and 10 tons and smacked the site at 7,800 miles per hour, giving the crater its characteristics, including “rays” that are visible in satellite photos.

These rays, which emanate from the impact site like spokes from the hub of a wheel, are what drew researchers’ attention to the crater, says Folco. While such “rayed craters” are common on the moon and other airless bodies of the solar system, they are exceedingly rare on Earth because erosion and other geological processes quickly erase such evidence. [Science News]

Researchers estimate that the site is relatively young, only about 5,000 years old, given that it must have struck at a time when Egypt’s deserts were in their current arid state.

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Images: Museo Nazionale dell’Antartide Universita di Siena

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Space
  • WhoDoneIt

    So if it struck about 5,000 years ago, which would be about 3,000 BC, could there be any hieroglyphs depicting the event. Although it was not huge, the burning meteor and impact would still have put on a huge fireworks display!!! It would be cool to see if the ancient civilizations made mention of it and tried to use the display as a symbol for anything.

  • Harvwald

    What a good question, WhoDoneIt! It’s not clear to me exactly where this is in Egypt, and whether it was near any of the civilizations at the time. But as you said, it must have been quite a display and certainly someone saw it. Time for the Egyptologists to weigh in on this.

  • Joseph Calamia

    Thanks for the comments. Harvwald, the site is located in southwest Egypt. This page (also linked above) includes a Google Earth image that lets you zoom in and out on the site (for a more exact look at the location):

  • Omar

    i don’t think so because its location is far very far from the Nile, Cairo, or even Luxor or Aswan .. but there might also be a possibility because ancient Egyptians Excelled in astronomy :S
    I agree .. it would be very cool if it was recorded and who knows? the ancient Egyptians always Amazed us
    BTW i am an EGYPTIAN :)

  • nicholas

    it would be interesting if this crater or similar impact was the reason for the bloody Nile water depicted in the bible

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