A VERY BIG BANG ! – O.S.U. Alumni Magazine

Research Report: “A Very Big Bang,” Ohio State Alumni Magazine, September – October, 2006: “Scientists have found evidence of a massive meteor impact that devastated life on Earth millions of years ago”
“What caused the biggest mass extinction in Earth’s history? It wasn’t the meteor that killed the dinosaurs—that happened a mere 65 million years ago . Scientists have found evidence of a much earlier and larger impact, the Wilkes Land meteor. A crater some 300 miles wide—big enough to hold the sttate of Ohio—lies more than a mile beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The gravity measurments that reveal its existence suggest that it could date back about 250 million years—the time of the Permian Triassic extinction when almost all animal life on Earth died out. All except reptiles that is. :
’Primitive reptiles were some of the few terrestial animals that managed to survive and squeeze through the Permian Triassic extinction,’ said Ralph von Frese, professor of geological sciences. ‘That paved the way for development of the dinosaurs that were apparently done in by the Chicxulub meteorite some 185 million years later.’ The Chicxulub meteor is thought to have measured six miles across, while the earlier Wilkes Land meteor could have been four or five times wider. The environmental changes resulting from its impact would have devastated life on Earth by creating ‘a highly caustic environment,’ von Frese said.
‘The crater’s size and location also suggest that the meteor’s impact could have begun the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent by creating the tectonic rift that pushed Australia northward about 100 million years ago.’
“Von Frese and Laramie Potts, a postdoctoral researcher led the team that discovered the crater. They used gravity fluctuations measured by NASA satellites to peer beneath Antarctica’s surface. When they overlaid the gravity image with airborne radar images of the ground beneath the ice, they found a mascon—a mass concentration of mantle material—centered inside a circular ridge. To von Frese years of studying similar situations on the moon told him the mascon meant impact. Von Frese and Potts would like to go to Antarctica to confirm their finding by analyzing rocks from within the crater. Airborne gravity and magnetic surveys also would be useful for testing their interpretation of the satellite data, they aid.”

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About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student
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