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Asteroid devastated Antarctica

Glasgow (Scotland): Scientists using satellites have mapped huge craters under the Antarctic ice sheet caused by an asteroid as big as the one believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Professor Frans van der Hoeven, from Delft University in the Netherlands, told the International Geographers Conference in Glasgow that the evidence showed that an asteroid measuring between 5 and 11 km across had broken up in the atmosphere and five large pieces had hit the Earth, creating multiple craters over an area measuring 2,000 by 3,800 km. The effect would have been to melt all the ice in the path of the pieces, as well as the crust underneath. The biggest single strike caused a hole in the ice sheet roughly 320 by 320 km, which would have melted about 1 per cent of the ice sheet, raising water levels worldwide by 60 cm. But the climatic conditions were different at the time of the strike — about 780,000 years ago — from when the asteroid that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs struck Yucatan in Mexico. That impact created dust storms which blocked out the sun and cooled the Earth's atmosphere so much that the dinosaurs could not survive. The Antarctica strike occurred during an ice age, so even tidal waves would have been weakened by the calming effect of icebergs. Prof. Van der Hoeven realised that there may have been an asteroid strike in the Antarctic while on an expedition when he noticed anomalies in the gravity from the rocks below, indicating a crater. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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