Geologists on the Isle of Skye in Scotland were astonished to find evidence of a 600million-year-old meteorite impact during a recent research trip.
Dr Simon Drake, from Birkbeck, University of London, made the find on Skye with colleague Dr Andy Beard while they and their team were investigating volcanic rocks on the island.
Credit: Simon Drake/University of London
Otherworldly minerals uncovered beneath many layers of lava were found to date to around 61.54million years ago and have not previously been found here on Earth.
However, the minerals have previously been collected as particles by NASA's Stardust mission in 2006.
The discovery of the alien minerals and the apparent impact has led the scientists to believe it could have played an important role in Skye's volcanological evolution.
But Dr Drake told the BBC: "We have found evidence of the impact at two sites and at another potential two sites on the Isle of Skye, at the moment."
"One of the things that is really interesting here is that the volcanological evolution of the Isle of Skye has always been considered to have been started with what's called a volcanic plume, an enormously large bulk of magma which has come up under what then was the crust that Skye was on.
Credit: Simon Drake
"We are now suggesting that this may well have been assisted by a meteorite impact."
The Geologists initial goal was to examine volcanic rock on the Scottish island. However, their attention ended up being drawn to something unexpected.
At first, the scientists believed they were looking at ignimbrite, a volcanic flow deposit, but upon closer inspection using an electron microprobe, they were able to determine that it contained rare minerals from outer space. Vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite.
"The most compelling evidence really is the presence of vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite," Drake told the BBC.
"Neither of these have ever been found on Earth before. We have these mineral totally enclosed in native iron, which itself is not of this planet."
The researchers also commented that their trip had been made more difficult by the fact that they were having to wade through a peat bog to conduct their studies.
Dr Drake said: "We were sinking in up to our thighs.
"I distinctly recall saying to Andy Beard, 'This had better be worth it'.
"It was worth it."
His research team is now looking to broaden its research to encompass the surrounding area too, stretching as far away as Greenland.
He believes the find could be significant in establishing the origins of the entire region.
Featured Image Credit: Simon Drake/University of London