The area of Russia is said to be called, ominously enough, the end of the world. And that's where researchers are headed this week, to investigate a large crater whose appearance reportedly caught scientists by surprise. The crater is estimated at 262 feet wide and is in the northern Siberian area of Yamal.
The crater has been a magnet for attention and speculation since aerial footage of it was posted online last week, showing a gaping hole and what looks to be rocks and earth that exploded from within it.
A team of scientists, including experts from Russia's Center for the Study of the Arctic and the Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, were reportedly heading to the site today to investigate — and perhaps to debunk some of the theories about its cause.
From The Siberian Times:
"The giant hole appeared close to a forest some 30 kilometers from Yamal's biggest gas field Bovanenkovo. Experts are confident that a scientific explanation will be found for it and that it is not — as one Web claim suggested — evidence 'of the arrival of a UFO craft' to the planet."
The list of possible natural explanations for the giant hole includes a meteorite strike and a gas explosion, or possibly an eruption of underground ice.
The crater is in an area that "is one of the most geologically young places on Earth," reports the From Quarks to Quasars blog. "It also happens to be extremely rich in gas. In fact, it contains the largest natural gas reservoir in all of Russia. ... In places with such large concentrations of gas, it's not unusual for underground explosions to rocket off. They occur only when under-soil ice melts and releases a substantial amount of gas."
The Siberian Times says the name Yamal roughly translates as "the end of the world." It adds that before the crater was spotted, the Yamal area was mostly famous for its reindeer and its birds, and for holding the ancient remains of several woolly mammoths.