June 15, 2021

Scientists just discovered that an asteroid may have ended ‘Snowball Earth’ 2.2 billion years ago

Some 2.2 billion years ago, an asteroid slammed into the Earth, leaving behind a massive, 43-mile-wide crater in what’s now Western Australia, scientists announced Tuesday.

It’s the world’s oldest known impact site, the new study said, one that also may have changed Earth’s climate: It occurred at a time that coincided with Earth’s recovery from an ice age known as “Snowball Earth,” where most of Earth’s surface was covered with ice sheets up to 3 miles thick, according to a statement from Imperial College in London.

The impact left behind a scar on the land that’s known as the Yarrabubba impact crater. “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.

That’s about half the age of Earth itself and 200 million years older than the previous record-holder, the 190-mile-wide Vredefort Dome in South Africa.

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