The crater, which is just over 22 miles wide, would be one of the largest meteorite impact sites on Earth if it is proved to be the result of a space rock.
Scientists exploring the depths of the Greenland ice sheet were hoping to unlock the secrets of the island that lay underneath the ice, and it seems as though they've succeeded in uncovering a couple of wonderful ones!
A NASA glaciologist spotted signs of the possible crater in northwest Greenland just 114 miles from the recently-discovered crater beneath the Hiawatha Glacier while scouring satellite imagery and topographic maps of the area.
The Haiwatha crater and this second crater, are shown in this NASA computer simulation of the IceBridge ice-penetrating radar data.
Last year, researchers warned that an asteroid will "inevitably" hit Earth and have a "calamitous" effect on humanity after finding a 20-mile-wide crater beneath the Hiawatha Glacier in northern Greenland. Located at the edge of the ice sheet, near the coastline, it was discovered by an global team of scientists that used Operation IceBridge ice-penetrating radar data to identify what appeared to be a crater rim preserved under the kilometre-thick glacier ice.
The authors of the latest paper, led by NASA glaciologist Joseph MacGregor, say that it is "increasingly rare" to find new large impact craters on Earth, let alone ones buried beneath ice. In addition to its strikingly circular shape and the elevation features of a rim and central mound that scientists expect in an impact crater, the Hiawatha discovery also sports minerals that appear to have been abruptly shocked by a dramatic event like a meteorite impact.
It was found thanks to NASA satellite images of the ice sheet surface and radar data from airborne missions. Unlike Hiawatha, the Paterson crater is beneath 2 kilometers of ice, making it far more hard to study and to gather the recrystallized rock that would result from a large impact. "Do the underlying data support that idea?"' MacGregor said.
This is consistent with Earth's cratering record, they say.
While a few congratulated the team on their new discovery.
The Paterson crater had the researchers wondering: Is it at all related to the nearby Hiawatha crater?
Satellite view of this same region from the VIIRS instrument of NASA's Suomi NPP satellite. All together, it reveals tantalizing features of an impact crater.
NASA's topographical map of the Hiawatha crater (lower left) and this new crater (right of centre).
The scientists then looked at rates of erosion: they calculated that a crater of that size would have initially been more half a mile deep between its rim and floor, which is an order of magnitude greater than its present depth. What they found was a flat, bowl-shaped depression in the bedrock.
So, if it wasn't actually an impact crater, though, what could it be?
"The only other circular structure that might approach this size would be a collapsed volcano caldera", MacGregor said in a statement.
'But the areas of known volcanic activity in Greenland are several hundred miles away.
There's plenty of mystery surrounding this depression, including whether it's a crater at all. This is characteristic of impact craters.
A small chunk of an asteroid or comet is also known as a meteoroid. Due to the presence of Greenland's current ice sheet, the island has an overall positive gravity anomaly, because the mass of the ice adds to the gravity of the area. However, emboldened by the discovery of Hiawatha, MacGregor and his team set out to look for more.
Indeed, two pairs of unrelated but geographically close craters have already been found in Ukraine and Canada, but the ages of the craters in the pairs are different from one another. This thicker ice may have eroded the crater faster, or if the crater formed earlier than the Hiawatha crater, there would have simply been more time for erosion to take its toll.