15 August 2010
A sensational discovery in the field of Astronomy and Earth Science has been made by a Joint Italian-Egyptian Collaboration. A Meteorite Impact Crater was found in the extreme south of the Western Desert of Egypt, in the area between Gebel Kamil and Gebel Uweinat, about 2km from the Sudanese border and 112km from Libya. Some 800kg of meteoritic material have been collected.
The success story is the outcome of the “2009 Italian-Egyptian Year of Science and Technology”. The framework agreement for the preparation of the joint geophysical expedition was signed in Cairo in July 2009, but the actual expedition took place in February 2010. Participating were Cairo University, the University of Siena; the Astronomical Observatory of Turin, the National Institute of Astrophysics of Italy; the Institute of Geo-science and Geo-resources of Pisa; the University of Pisa; the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA), the National Research Institute for Astronomy and Geophysics at Helwan (NRIAG); and the University of Bologna.
The Kamil Crater was first identified in June 2008 on Google Earth satellite images by Vincenzo de Michele, a former curator of the Civico Museo di Storia Naturale in Milan, Italy.
The exact age of the Gebel Kamil Crater is still uncertain, but evidence points to a relatively recent event. Since it is known that human occupation in that area ended about 5000 years ago, it is clear that the impact must have occurred less than 5000 years ago.
The discovery of the Gebel Kamil meteorite will open the door for increasing knowledge about the hidden life, invisible secrets and mysteries outside the Earth environment. The meteoritic material may be analysed, for instance, for nano-bacteria and micro-organisms; and its internal structure may be scanned using synchrotron radiation.
The Gebel Kamil Crater discovery is unique for several reasons. All the elements of the impact including thousands of the iron meteorite pieces scattered on the ground in and around the crater are perfectly preserved. This provides for the first time almost full ground truth for small-scale hypervelocity impact on the Earth’s surface.
The Gebel Kamil Crater is relatively small, about 45m in diameter and 16m deep, yet is extremely well preserved. Small craters are rare on Earth—Kamil Crater is one of only 15 worldwide—due to the relative ease with which smaller structures can be buried by post-impact sediments or destroyed by erosion.
Generally, such immaculate craters are found only on the Moon or on the surfaces of atmosphere-less planetary bodies, where environmental and atmospheric processes that can destroy them are absent.