The oldest crater on Earth has been accurately dated and scientists think the impact could have changed the world’s climate.
Western Australia’s Yarrabubba crater is believed to be 200 million years older than the next oldest crater on Earth.
The researchers updated the site with new technological methods.
They measured the age of shocked minerals inside the crater and determined that it was created by a meteorite 2.23 billion years ago.
This would make about half the age of our Earth 4.5 billion years old.
The crater has long been regarded as one of the oldest on Earth, but a precise age was not known until now.
Dating craters can be very difficult due to changes in the Earth’s surface over time.
The research team thinks that the meteor hit at a time when glaciers were forming all over Earth and Australia was largely covered in ice.
The simulations indicated that the meteorite hit a continental ice sheet and threw 5,000 trillion kilograms of water vapor into the atmosphere.
Scientists note that such an impact would have drastically changed Earth’s climate and may even have caused a period of greenhouse effect known as “Snowball Earth”.
The researcher was based at Curtin University in Perth.
Professor Chris Kirkland, who worked on the study, said: “Yarrabubba, located between Sandstone and Meekatharra in central WA, had been recognized as an impact facility for many years, but its age was not well established.”
“We now know that the Yarrabubba crater was created right at the end of what is commonly called the Snowball Earth in advance – a time when the atmosphere and oceans were evolving and becoming more oxygenated and when the rocks deposited in many continents recorded glacial conditions. “
Researchers can support their climate change theory with the fact that the impact of Yarrabubba appears to coincide with the disappearance of glacial deposits.
Associate professor Nicholas Timms said: “This turn of fate suggests that the meteorite’s huge impact may have influenced the global climate.”
The study could have a significant impact for future investigations on the crater.
Dr Aaron Cavosie of Curtin University said: “Our results show that it is important to acquire precise ages of known impact craters – this remained in plain sight for nearly two decades before its meaning was realized.
“Yarrabubba is about half the time of Earth and raises the question of whether all older impact craters have been eroded or whether they are still out there waiting to be discovered.”
This research was published in Nature Communications.
What is the difference between an asteroid, a meteor and a comet?
Here’s what you need to know, according to NASA …
- Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the sun. Most are located in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but can be found anywhere (even in a path that can have an impact on Earth)
- meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small pieces that come off are called meteoroids
- Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it starts vaporizing and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it will look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning
- Meteorite: If a meteoroid does not completely vaporize and survives the journey through the Earth’s atmosphere, it can land on Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
- Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the sun. However, instead of being made primarily of rock, a comet contains a lot of ice and gas, which can cause surprising tails to form behind them (thanks to the vaporization of ice and dust)
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Are you impressed by the world’s oldest meteorite crater? Let us know in the comments …
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