Emerging Technology from the arXiv

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Unrecorded Meteorite Crater Found On Mount Ararat?

The discovery of an unrecorded crater raises the possibility that the biblical mountain was struck by a meteorite, say physicists

  • November 18, 2010

Mount Ararat is an ancient, isolated volcano in eastern Turkey near the borders with Iran and Armenia. According to the Bible, the mountain is the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. Many an expedition has tried and failed to find the Ark’s remains.

The northern and western slopes of the mountain are closed to public so how two physicists gained access is anybody’s guess. However, today Vahe Gurzadyan from the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia and Sverre Aarseth from the University of Cambridge in the UK, publish an account of a remarkable discovery they made while walking in the region.

At an altitude of 2100 metre, at coordinates 39˚ 47’ 30”N, 44˚ 14’ 40”E, they found a well-preserved and previously unrecorded crater some 70 metres across. (Google Earth is of little use. The resolution of the imagery at this location is poor.) That’s a decent size for a crater that has gone unnoticed for so long (although new craters of this kind of size do turn up from time to time.)

The question of course is how this crater was formed. One possibility is that the crater is volcanic. But Gurzadyan and Aarseth raise another: that it is the result of a meteorite impact. They rule out a glacial origin on the grounds that 2100 metres is well below the glacier line.

Gurzadyan and Aarseth publish their account with the intention of attracting interest so that the crater can be properly classified.

New craters are important because they help determine how heavily the Earth has been bombarded in the past. And while small craters are far more numerous than big ones on other bodies in the Solar System, the opposite is true on Earth because small ones tend to be eroded away more quickly.

Interestingly, the crater wasn’t their only discovery during their trip. Because the region is closed, it is virtually unexplored. Gurzadyan and Aarseth say they also stumbled across the remains of a 5th or 6th century Armenian basilica that is unknown to experts.

Sounds like an adventure in the making for anybody with the time and inclination to go. (And with the necessary permits, of course.)

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1011.3715: A Meteorite Crater On Mt. Ararat?

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