Dr Michael Simms revealed last year he had found the centre of the 25-mile wide crater buried more than three miles beneath the village of Lairg in Sutherland.
It was created around 1.2billion years ago when a 13billion tonne chunk of space rock travelling at more than 40,000mph struck the Earth with the force of 940million Hiroshima bombs.
Strange ‘melted’ rocks in the area were thought to be evidence of ancient volcanic activity before geologists discovered in 2008 they had been created by a meteorite impact.
However, the crater was thought to be buried under the Atlantic – until Dr Simms made his discovery by chance on a visit to the Highlands.
Now his work is helping to lead to a greater understanding of the thousands of meteorite impact craters on the surface of Mars.
Dr Simms, of Ulster Museum in Belfast, said: “It’s similar to what we know about impact deposits on Mars and another strand of research that is being followed up is why does it look more like the craters on Mars than those on Earth, for example the big dinosaur killing crater. It tells us potentially what is going on on Mars when a big meteorite hits the planet.
Like most craters on Mars, Lairg is a “single layered ejecta” crater and Dr Simms believes this could be evidence of it striking a thick layer of “water-saturated sandy sediment” above bedrock.
He added: “If we can understand why the Scottish deposit is just one layer, rather than two, then we can perhaps get an idea of what the surface of Mars is like and how it behaves when hit by a large meteorite.
“I don’t know that it would particularly help in determining if there is life on Mars, but the evidence from Scotland may go some way to understanding processes on the surface of that planet which, in turn, may help in figuring out the best places to look for life.”
He pointed out that if the Lairg meteorite happened today, the consequences would be unimaginable and continued: “Scotland would be completely wiped out. Nobody would survive.
“As devastating as it would be, as a scientist I can’t help but think what it would be like because we really don’t know what happens when a big meteorite hits. Our knowledge is gained from modelling and guesswork so I am intrigued.
“Myself and a chap in Germany are actually looking at the gravity data which suggest it may be bigger but we are not certain. It’s 25 to 30miles across so it’s in the top 15 or so and it’s a long way down – maybe three or four miles before you hit it.
“There is an awful lot more to be done.
“Lairg has certainly done a brilliant job of putting it on the map as it were even if there was nothing to be seen to get people to come along to the site.
“The great thing about it is that there’s a lot of it there and it is very hard and bullet proof so it’s under no threat from geologists. People can collect pieces and marvel at it. It’s pretty unique, it’s different of any other impact crater on earth.”
The crater was first identified by Oxford University scientist Dr Ken Amor and a group of students, before Dr Simms and a friend visited the same area a few years later.
They discovered the centre of the impact crater with the help of a gravitational map which showed a weaker force in Lairg than in surrounding areas.
Dr Simms added: “For decades it was thought these rocks were volcanic because they had bits of melted rock mixing with sand so it was the obvious explanation despite certain oddities.
“It was Ken Amor who identified there had been a meteorite impact and if he’d not come along, I don’t think I would have bothered to visit there I’m afraid.
“But I did go there and combined with the deposit rock and the gravitational anomaly which we knew about but did not know why it was there, I realised this was an impact crater, it fit the bill.”
Source : EXPRESS