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ESA satellite images Manicouagan Crater

Researchers believe the Manicouagan Crater is one of five in a chain of related impacts.

By
Brooks Hays
The Manicouagan Crater is the most visible crater on Earth, easily spotted from space. Photo by ESA
The Manicouagan Crater is the most visible crater on Earth, easily spotted from space. Photo by ESA

RIVIERE-MOUCHALAGANE, Quebec, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Earlier this year, the European Space Agency's Sentinel-1A satellite imaged one of the oldest and most visible crater on Earth, the Manicouagan Crater. ESA shared the image online on Friday, October 30.

The circular imprint is located in Quebec and dated at 214 million years old. It was caused by the impact of an asteroid three miles wide. Today, part of the leftover scar is filled with water, forming Manicouagan Lake.

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The multi-ring impact structure measures some 62 miles in diameter, making it the sixth largest (by width) confirmed impact crater. The impact's main feature is its 40-mile-wide inner ring, comprising the annular lake and inner island plateau, Rene-Levasseur Island. Over the millions of years since the collision, erosion has greatly augmented the asteroids imprint.

Researchers believe the crater is one of several associated impact sites. In a 1998 study, scientists proffered that a single asteroid, broken into pieces during its descent through the Earth's atmosphere, created a chain of impacts: France's Rochechouart crater, Manitoba's Saint Martin crater, Ukraine's Obolon' crater and North Dakota's Red Wing crater.

Laser argon dating puts them all at the same age, and analysis of plate tectonics suggests they were once geologically aligned.

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Sentinel-1A is a weather satellite which uses bursts of radar to image the landscape and atmosphere. Artificial color was added by ESA scientists. The polar orbiting satellite was launched in 2014.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Manicouagan Crater is the oldest visible crater on Earth. It is among the oldest.

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