Science

Outback Australia home to Earth's oldest asteroid strike

Outback Australia home to Earth's oldest asteroid strike”

Erickson and his colleagues identified that the meteorite which hit the earth and caused the crater had a diameter of around several miles.

In a statement, study co-author Aaron Cavosie of Curtin University said the study may have potentially significant implications for future impact crater discoveries: "Our findings highlight that acquiring precise ages of known craters is important - this one sat in plain sight for almost two decades before its significance was realized". "The age we've got for the Yarrabubba impact structure makes it the oldest impact structure on the planet", study co-author Chris Kirkland, a geologist at Australia's Curtin University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Thanks to NASA, Curtin University in Australia and Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, researchers have also found Yarrabubba is the oldest known impact crater on the planet.

Using a novel method, scientists have dated the 43-mile-wide Yarrabubba crater in Western Australia to 2.2 billion years ago.

To calculate the age of crater, scientists analyzed recrystallized mineral deposits, according to Timmons Erickson, lead author of the new paper and a research scientist at NASA.

Till now, the oldest asteroid impact on Earth was the Vredefort Dome in South Africa. That's half as old as the Earth itself.

An worldwide team led by a NASA scientist identified the oldest known meteor crater in Australia, which lends more clues to the formation of the Earth.

'Now we know the Yarrabubba crater was made right at the end of what's commonly referred to as the early Snowball Earth - a time when the atmosphere and oceans were evolving and becoming more oxygenated and when rocks deposited on many continents recorded glacial conditions, ' said Professor Kirkland. Now, researchers believe it is the oldest known impact crater, predating others by 200 million years.

At the time, the landscape may have been ice-covered and the impact would have vaporised a large volume into the atmosphere. It is so old that it doesn't look like the typical impact crater that would have a clearly visible rim and deep bowl, according to the researchers.

"Yarrabubba is about half the age of the Earth and it raises the question of whether all older impact craters have been eroded or if they are still out there waiting to be discovered", Cavosie said.

'Our findings highlight that acquiring precise ages of known impact craters is important - this one sat in plain sight for almost two decade before its significance was realised, ' said Dr Aaron Cavosie at Curtin University. They published their findings Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

The planetary cooling was so extreme that it left the Earth nearly completely covered by ice sheets.

At that time, most land was clustered around the equator, but the glaciers left their mark on the rocks even there.

The Snowball Earth hypothesis speculates the planet's surface was covered in ice sheets between one and three miles thick.

When the Earth thawed, life exploded out across the planet in a burst of evolution.



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