Grad student finds new asteroid crater in southern Alberta

Alberta grad student Wei Xie was not the first person to notice the strange terrain west of Bow City, Alta., but she is one of those credited with discovering a “relatively new” asteroid crater there, one that is nearly eight kilometres wide and about 400 kilometres deep.

The graduate student in geophysics at the University of Alberta helped a team of university and Alberta Geological Survey researchers uncover the crater, buried in a rural area southeast of Calgary, and she presented the research at the American Geophysical Union conference on Dec. 3.

Only a handful of these hidden craters are known, but with wider use of new technology, that number is bound to grow, she told Wired. “Our technology is really improving,” she said.

The crater has long been covered over and is estimated to be about 70 million years old. It took an analysis of data from boreholes drilled in the area and seismic wave surveys to show the giant crater below the surface. Xie and her colleagues will continue to search for definite proof, and they are looking for evidence of impact known as “shocked minerals.”

It might be too soon to call it a “crater boom” in Canada, but the discovery of another, even bigger asteroid crater was published this summer. Located in the Arctic on Victoria Island, the Prince Albert crater is an estimated 25 kilometres wide.

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