An asteroid exploded over Antarctica 2.5 million years ago

About 2.5 million years ago, an asteroid explosion probably occurred over Antarctica. This hypothesis is confirmed by chemical analysis of more than 100 small rock samples that remained in the ice of the White Continent, the researchers report in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. According to them, this ancient explosion in the air over the continent is the oldest known.

An asteroid explosion over Antarctica. Illustration: Gencraft

The surface of the Earth and other bodies are often hit by asteroids, forming noticeable craters. However, sometimes an object disintegrates in the atmosphere before reaching the surface, and therefore does not leave a crater. Such airbursts have tremendous destructive power, converting kinetic energy into shock waves, pressure and heat. Scientists believe they have found evidence of such an explosion, which occurred between 2.3 and 2.7 million years ago over Antarctica.

The researchers analyzed 116 small rock samples found in the glaciers of the continent. They discovered minerals characteristic of asteroids, such as olivine and spinel. The exact composition of oxygen indicates that these rocks were formed as a result of an airburst. According to scientists, such airbursts of asteroids are especially destructive, like a huge torch evaporating everything around.

Chemical analysis of microscopic rock fragments collected in Antarctica indicates that they correspond to a type of asteroid known as ordinary chondrite, which disintegrated in the atmosphere. Photo: 

Earth is quite often bombarded by large fragments of extraterrestrial material, says Jason Pearl, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, who was not involved in the study. According to him, cataclysms like Chelyabinsk and Tunguska occur approximately every 50 and 500 years, respectively. 

Jason Pearl is interested in finding other airbursts in geological history. According to him, others must be found. “IIt’s totally believable that events would have occurred in that time period,” says the researcher.

Earlier we reported on how a meteorite weighing 7.6 kg was found in Antarctica.

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