Meteorite impact layer on the island of Skye

Thin section view of the meteorite ejecta deposit on Skye. Image: Simon Drake

In a paper published in Geology in December 2017, Simon Drake, Andy Beard and colleagues announced the discovery of remarkable new evidence of a meteor impact in Scotland. They found a one-metre thick ejacta layer immediately below the first layers of Palaeogene lava in south Skye, which were erupted about 61 million years ago. This layer contains very unusual unmelted crystals from the actual meteorite, albeit tiny crsytals that can only be viewed using a microscope. This is the first recorded occurrence of vanadium-rich osbornite (TiVN) on Earth, this has previously been reported as dust from comet Wild 2, but on Skye it is found as an unmelted phase.

This remarkable discovery raises intriguing questions about the start of volcanic activity on Skye and other locations along the west coast of Scotland, one of Scotland’s most important geological episodes that contributes much to the landscape of the Hebrides.

Read more about the science behind this discovery – Geoscientist magazine of the Geological Society, April 2018.

It is very depressing therefore that this narrow and scientifically unique layer has been targeted by mineral collectors, who have used a small digger to remove part of the exposure. More than 400 fist-sized pieces of loose rock have also been taken. There are plans now to protect the site behind glass, so that the exposure can still be viewed.

BBC News – Meteorite hunters dig up 60 million-year-old site in Skye.

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