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A circular depression deep in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been confirmed as the first known impact crater in central Africa, a new study says. The find brings the number of known meteor craters on Earth to 182.
The so-called Luizi structure was first described in a German geological report from 1919. But without further fieldwork, it was impossible to say for sure that the 10.5-mile-wide (17-kilometer-wide) feature had been made by a meteor impact.
the crater-like structures we do see may have been made by volcanoes, collapsed underground chambers, and other forces that have nothing to do with impacts, said study leader Ludovic Ferrière, curator of the rock collection at the Natural History Museum of Vienna in Austria. "On Earth, to confirm it's an impact, you have to go in the field because you need evidence of high pressures and temperatures," Ferrière said.
Ferrière's team spent about a week at the crater collecting samples, which were sent back to the lab in Canada for analysis. "I found so-called shatter cones, which are features in the rock only found in impact structures," he said. The nested, conical shapes in such features are evidence that the bedrock has been exposed to extreme pressure from a shock wave. The crater rocks also contained an abundance of shocked quartz, a version of the mineral known to form only from impacts or nuclear blasts, Ferrière said.
The scientists think the Luizi crater was made by a meteor more than 0.6 mile (a kilometer) wide that slammed into what is now the DRC at about 45,000 miles (72,000 kilometers) an hour. For now it's unclear how old the crater is—the scientists can say only that the affected rocks are about 575 million years old, "but we know it's younger than that, because the rocks have been excavated," Ferrière said.
Originally posted by starshift
Interesting find. Humans were not around at the time of impact however.