Preliminary studies of the Ritland structure shows mineralogical evidences that prove it is an impact structure. This opens up for an in-depth investigation of the crater, studies which will offer new impact information of great international interest.
Overview of the Ritland area, looking south from the northern crater rim. Yellow dotted line indicates approximately outline of the structure. The crater is partly filled with Cambrian sediments and Caledonian thrust sheets.
Large impact craters are rare on the Earth’s surface; so far only 176 impact craters have been confirmed globally. Two of these are registered in Norway; the Gardnos structure (Hallingdal) and the Mjølnir structure (Barents Sea). Both of these structures have been the focus of international scientific programs conducted by the Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo.
The study of impact craters integrates several scientific disciplines such as geology, geophysics, astronomy, physics, mathematics, biology and chemistry. The very promising new data from Ritland will contribute to our understanding of the Earth’s crust and the solar system, geological processes of catastrophic deformation and the formation of geological basins. In addition it will give new information to a poorly known part of the geological history of Norway. In order to achieve such results, it is necessary to form a highly qualified project group by utilizing the well established international impact network of the University of Oslo.
The Ritland outcrops in Hjelmeland in Western Norway are very well exposed and will clearly be excursion targets for several impact interested scientists and students in the years to come. It will therefore be of importance to have established as good a data base as possible for this structure.
Impact structures normally receive considerable public interest, due to their often impressive appearance and catastrophic way of formation. This attention can be used in the promotion of natural sciences and recruitment of new students. The close interplay between the various natural sciences in impact studies makes this an excellent arena for educational programs in natural sciences.
The Ritland project is funded for three years by the Norwegian Research council, started 1. July 2009.