Museums NI curator uncovers giant meteor

Dr Mike Simms is Curator of Paleontology for National Museums Northern Ireland. The story behind his momentous discovery will be told on Saturday, 24th September, in Walking Through Time at 8pm on Channel 4.

Dr Mike Simms is Curator of Paleontology for National Museums Northern Ireland. The story behind his momentous discovery will be told on Saturday, 24th September, in Walking Through Time at 8pm on Channel 4.

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One of the largest meteor impact craters in the world has been found beneath Scotland by Ulster Museum paleontology curator Dr Mike Simms.

The sheer size of the crater, 40km across, indicates a devastating primordial impact 75 times the size of the atomic blast that destroyed Hiroshima.

Topographical map with Lairg gravity anomaly

Topographical map with Lairg gravity anomaly

Dr Simms’ discovery brings to a conclusion a decades long mystery about the origin of a distinctive rock layer sandwiched between billion-year-old sandstones on the north-west coast of Scotland, near Ullapool. The unusual formation had been explained as a volcanic mudflow until 2008, when geologists proved that it had been formed by a giant meteor. Until now, the location of the impact crater has been a mystery.

By exploring variations in the strength of gravity around the region, the Ulster Museum curator believes he has now uncovered its location.

Dr Simms explains: “When I visited the area on holiday in 2011 I found clues that the source of this unique layer – the impact crater – actually lies to the east. That raised the possibility that the crater might still exist somewhere on the Scottish mainland”.

Geophysical maps of Scotland reveal a huge gravity anomaly centred on the town of Lairg. Its similarity to gravity anomalies associated with impact craters around the world suggests that a 40km crater is buried several kilometres beneath Lairg. The story behind the discovery will be told on Saturday, September 24, at 8pm on Channel 4.

Meteor impact deposit at Stoer.

Meteor impact deposit at Stoer.

Impact deposit and gravity anomaly map.

Impact deposit and gravity anomaly map.