Monday, February 26, 2024
Monday, February 26, 2024
HomeScienceAntarctic ice holds clues to devastating ancient air explosion

Antarctic ice holds clues to devastating ancient air explosion


(MENAFN-Daily News Egypt)

Small rock fragments trapped in Antarctic ice reveal the oldest known mid-air explosion from an asteroid, dating back 2.5 million years.

Earth’s rocky surfaces bear the scars of countless asteroid and comet impacts, evident in the numerous craters that dot our planet. However, some celestial visitors face a different fate: they disintegrate in the atmosphere before reaching Earth. These mid-air explosions, although they do not leave craters, can be just as destructive.

A recent study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters sheds light on such an ancient event. The researchers, led by Dr. Matthias van Ginneken, analyzed more than 100 small rock fragments (micrometeorites) found within the Antarctic ice. These spheroidal particles, each about the width of a human hair, revealed a surprising story.

Chemical analysis identified olivine and spinel as the dominant minerals, suggesting that they originated from a common chondrite asteroid. The presence of specific oxygen isotopes further confirmed its formation in an air explosion that interacted with ice. This “landing” event, as Dr. van Ginneken calls it, would have been particularly devastating, releasing immense heat and pressure upon impact.

This discovery marks the oldest aerial explosion recorded in Earth’s history, pushing the timeline back millions of years. Although only two other events of this type have been documented, occurring 480,000 and 430,000 years ago, experts believe that many more lie hidden in the geological record.

“It’s totally credible that events would have occurred in that period,” says physicist Jason Pearl, noting the frequency of smaller asteroid impacts.

Dr. van Ginneken is optimistic about uncovering more evidence. “I am convinced that there are more examples,” he declares, emphasizing the importance of studying these ancient events to understand the history of the impact of our planet and possible future threats.

This research not only rewrites the chronology of aerial explosions but also serves as a reminder of the dynamic and potentially destructive nature of our cosmic neighborhood.

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