Geologist Ludovic Ferrière travels the world in search of undiscovered impact craters left behind by asteroids and comets striking Earth. He tells us how he finds them
CRATERS caused by the impact of asteroids or comets long ago are more common on Earth than you might think. They are just a good deal trickier to locate than those peppering the barren, unchanging surface of the moon. However, finding them can reveal details of prehistoric events that have had a lasting impact, as typified by the crater left behind by the asteroid impact that ended the reign of the dinosaurs.
Geologist Ludovic Ferrière is the curator of the meteorite collection at the Natural History Museum Vienna in Austria, but he has a sideline in crater hunting – a difficult and dangerous pursuit that has taken him to some of the world’s most remote places and even seen him spend time in jail.
Joshua Howgego: Why do you want to find undiscovered craters?
Ludovic Ferrière: What motivates me most of all – apart from the adventure of travelling to these remote places – is the possibility of making a new discovery. This is nothing unusual. We humans want to discover new things, we are a curious species.
From a scientific point of view, people get excited about impact craters because we now know that one single asteroid impact can have consequences on the scale of the whole planet, like the Chicxulub impactor, a 12-kilometre-wide asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago near where the coast of Mexico is today. It left behind a crater roughly 180 kilometres wide – one of the largest confirmed impact structures of its kind – and led to the extinction of 75 per cent of all the plant and animal species on the …