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Meteorite Impact! The Danger from Space and South Africa's by Wolf Uwe Reimold, Roger L. Gibson

By Wolf Uwe Reimold, Roger L. Gibson

The impression of huge extraterrestrial bolides (asteroids and comets) with Earth is an ever-present chance that humanity has just recently started to realize. Of the one hundred seventy five effect craters stumbled on up to now in the world, 3 giants stand out – Chicxulub in Mexico, Sudbury in Canada, and the Vredefort influence constitution in South Africa. every one of those impression occasions catastrophically altered the worldwide setting and used to be robust adequate to enormously swap existence on our planet. The Vredefort constitution is the oldest and biggest of those 3 giants and at approximately three hundred km diameter it truly is approximately two times the dimensions of the Chicxulub crater that was once shaped via an impression that burnt up nearly seventy five% of all recognized lifestyles in the world sixty five million years in the past. within the greater than 2000 million years in view that its formation, water, wind and ice have slowly eroded away the unique Vredefort crater, exposing its roots in a sequence of fabulous rocks. The outcroppings within the area round the cities of Vredefort and Parys, referred to as the Vredefort Dome, exhibit the scars of the cataclysmic forces that observed the effect occasion. The rocks, ripped from the depths of the crust by means of the impression, additionally inform a much older tale that stretches again to greater than 3500 million years in the past, whilst the 1st continents shaped at the primitive Earth, and to the time while extraordinary gold deposits amassed at the margins of the traditional Witwatersrand sea. The Vredefort constitution is actually one of many geological wonders of the realm. whereas the rocks of the Vredefort Dome, and the tale they must inform, lie on the middle of this booklet, it truly is on no account the entire tale. The Dome is a space of wonderful scenic attractiveness and biodiversity, ruled by means of forty kilometre-wide crescent of hills incised by means of the Vaal River and its tributaries. This sector has additionally been domestic to people for plenty of millions of years. jointly, the wealthy geological, organic and archaeological background has ended in the popularity of the main scenic a part of the Vredefort Dome as an international historical past website.

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Additional info for Meteorite Impact! The Danger from Space and South Africa's Mega-Impact The Vredefort Structure (Geoparks of the World)

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These rocks also preserve evidence of repeated deformation by tectonic forces that probably led to thickening of the crust and formation of mountain belts (orogens) when continents collided. 1 billion years ago, at which point a major mountain belt or chain of volcanoes must have existed in the region. Evidence of diamonds of this age that have been found in some of the kimberlite pipes in South Africa indicates that, by this time, the Kaapvaal continent was underlain by a thick keel ('rocky root') of more-dense rocks (so-called eclogite and harzburgite) that extended down to a depth of at least 120 km.

It is likely that, for millions of years thereafter, violent earthquakes, of magnitudes far beyond the currently used Richter Scale (page 54), continued to shake the Earth as the grossly disturbed crust readjusted after the impact catastrophe. More than 2 000 million years have passed since this catastrophe, and several kilometres of rock have been eroded from the continent since. Yet, the remnants of the crater structure, the root zone of the collapsed central uplift, V F remain, and some portions of it, the Vredefort Mountain Land, are highly visible.

The bo om image by STS-97 of December 2000 provides a stark contrast, with glaciers having receded drama cally — illustra ng a significant shi in global climate over only ten years. Courtesy NASA's Earth Observatory. 44 It is obvious from this brief discussion of the Archaean and early Proterozoic history of the Kaapvaal continent that geology, as with much of nature, has worked in cycles. In its simplest form, the geological cycle involves: • periods of splitting apart of crust along relatively narrow rift zones, which raises hotter rocks closer to the surface and invariably triggers volcanic and other magmatic activity • cooling of the crust, causing the land surface to subside, thus opening the way for the formation of broad sedimentary basins • periods of compression, triggered by collision between continental fragments, which thicken the crust, thus raising the land surface and forming mountain belts close to the site of collision and deep sedimentary basins farther away.

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