Asteroids are small, rocky objects. Asteroids can bring tsunamis, shock waves and flattening winds that could be catastrophic. However, a car-sized asteroid (space rock) slams into the Earth's atmosphere about once in a year. On the other hand, an asteroid large enough to threaten the existence of life on Earth arrives once every few million years. Recently, a study led by Birger Schmitz of Lund University in Sweden claimed that an asteroid 30,000 times bigger than the dinosaurs-killer collided 470 million years ago may have sparked new life on Earth.
According to a report of The Observer, the study was published in ’Science Advances’. The study suggests a distant asteroid collision produced enough dust to trigger an ice age on Earth, approximately 470 million years ago. “We know about the 10 km asteroid that crashed on Earth 67 million years ago and killed off the dinosaurs, but this event was very different,” Birger Schmitz told The Observer.
He further said, “The collision occurred about 470 million years ago when an asteroid 30,000 times bigger than the dinosaurs-killer was destroyed during a collision with another asteroid beyond the orbit of Mars. It filled the solar system with dust and caused a major dimming of sunlight falling on Earth.”
“The sediments laid down at this time are rich in the isotope helium-3 – which they could only have picked up travelling through space. It is a crucial clue,” he added.
Philipp Heck said, “We’ve shown that what happens in the solar system can have a big influence on Earth. Extraterrestrial events aren’t always destructive. Many people think about meteorites as just dinosaur killers, but we found the opposite.”
“A big collision in the asteroid belt had constructive consequences that led to cooling and biodiversification. We’re talking about gentle changes that happened over 2 million years. If we could travel back in time, it wouldn’t appear as a catastrophe to us, it would be more like a gentle nudge that led to global change and triggered diversification,” he added. It is to be noted that Dr Philipp Heck is an author of the study.
Scientist Rebecca Freeman, from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, also supported the claims made by Birger Schmitz. “It isn’t necessarily the answer to every question we have about GOBE (the great Ordovician biodiversification event), but it certainly ties together a lot of observations,” she told the journal ‘Science’.