Australia’s Wolfe Creek Crater, one of the world’s largest meteorite craters, is much younger than previously thought.
Previous estimates have put its age at around 300,000 years, but now a new study in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science suggests it is more like 120,000 years.
An international team led by Tim Barrows from the University of Wollongong, Australia, and the UK’s University of Portsmouth used two techniques to date the crater: exposure dating (which estimates the length of time a rock has been exposed at the Earth’s surface to cosmic radiation) and optically stimulated luminescence (which measures how long ago sediment was last exposed to sunlight).
They also created a new 3D topographical model of the crater using aerial photographs to calculate its dimensions – a maximum width of 946 metres, with an average of 892 metres, and a depth of 178 metres filled by about 120 metres of sediment.
Situated on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in northern Western Australia, Wolfe Creek is the second largest crater on Earth – after Meteor Crater in Arizona, US – from which meteorite fragments have been recovered
Using their dating techniques, Barrows and colleagues have calculated the age of the Meteor Crater as 61,000 years – more than 10,000 years older than previously thought.