Particles excavated in Antarctica were produced when a meteorite EXPLODED in mid-air

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An ancient meteorite that exploded in the sky 430,000 years ago left unusual particles of matter in the mountains of Antarctica, a new study reveals.

An international team of space scientists, led by the University of Kent, investigated ‘alien particles’ recovered from the top of Walnumfjellet Mountain in the Sør Rondane Mountains of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.

The pieces of evaporated space rock were deposited after a 100-meter-long asteroid exploded near the frozen surface of Antarctica hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The findings could help scientists identify past ‘airburst’ effects and prepare for future ones, which could wreak havoc if they occur in densely populated locations.

An ancient meteorite that exploded in the sky 430,000 years ago left unusual particles of matter in the mountains of Antarctica, a new study reveals.

An ancient meteorite that exploded in the sky 430,000 years ago left unusual particles of matter in the mountains of Antarctica, a new study reveals.

EVENT IMPACT: SPACE ROCK EXPLOSIONS RELEASING IMMENSE ENERGY

An impact event is when a space rock collides with Earth, or explodes in the upper or lower atmosphere.

There can be significant consequences of an impact forming a crater.

Including the Chicxulub event 66 million years ago that killed dinosaurs.

The Tunguska event was a massive explosion in Russia in 1908 over a sparsely populated area of ​​Siberia.

It flattened 80 million trees, but left no impact crater.

It is thought to have disintegrated six miles above the surface.

Large eruptions, which occur when asteroids enter Earth’s atmosphere and explode in mid-air, are estimated to be much more common than crater-forming impacts.

Due to the challenges in identifying and characterizing the widespread remnants of exploded meteorites, large air eruptions are usually identified by eyewitness accounts rather than by evidence in the geological record.

To solve the puzzle of a possible ancient meteorite event that hit Antarctica while leaving barely a trace, the study authors looked at tiny particles.

Matthias Van Ginneken and colleagues used microscopy and laser techniques to analyze 17 black, spherical clot particles collected from Walnumfjellet.

They found that the particles, usually between 100 and 300 micrometers in size, were mainly composed of the minerals olivine and iron spinel welded together by small amounts of glass.

The chemistry of these particles, including their high nickel content, suggests that they originated in space.

They also compared the particles to those in other ice cores, which record meteorite events in Antarctica 430,000 and 480,000 years ago.

The team observed similarities that suggest the particles were the result of a single asteroid impact about 430,000 years ago.

An international team of space scientists, led by the University of Kent, investigated 'alien particles' recovered from the top of Mount Walnumfjellet in the Sør Rondane mountain range of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica

An international team of space scientists, led by the University of Kent, investigated 'alien particles' recovered from the top of Mount Walnumfjellet in the Sør Rondane mountain range of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica

An international team of space scientists, led by the University of Kent, investigated ‘alien particles’ recovered from the top of Mount Walnumfjellet in the Sør Rondane mountain range of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica

They used a combination of numerical simulations with the low oxygen-18 isotope content observed in the particles to identify their origin.

Ginneken noted that there was no crater associated with the event, and concluded that the particles reached the ice sheet by projectile vapor jets released by the exploded meteorite, which was likely between 100 meters and 150 meters in diameter.

This type of explosion is described as moderate, because it is larger than an air blast, explodes at a great height, but smaller than an impact crater.

The particles from evaporated space rock were the result of the atmospheric entry of an asteroid at least 100 meters in size that exploded near the surface at high speed

The particles from evaporated space rock were the result of the atmospheric entry of an asteroid at least 100 meters in size that exploded near the surface at high speed

The particles from evaporated space rock were the result of the atmospheric entry of an asteroid at least 100 meters in size that exploded near the surface at high speed

CHELYABINSK EVENT: THE BIGGEST METEOR STRIKE IN A CENTURY

A meteor that shot over the southern Ural Mountains in February 2013 was the largest recorded meteor strike in more than a century, after the Tunguska event of 1908.

More than 1,600 people were injured by the blast shock wave, estimated to be as strong as 20 atomic bombs on Hiroshima, when it landed near the city of Chelyabinsk.

The 18-meter-wide fireball screamed into the Earth’s atmosphere at 41,600 miles per hour.

Much of the meteor landed in a local lake called Chebarkul.

The findings point to an impact far more dangerous than the events in Tunguska and Chelyabinsk over Russia in 1908 and 2013, respectively.

This research, published by Science Advances, leads to an important discovery for the geological record where evidence of such events is scarce.

The study highlights the importance of re-evaluating the threat from medium asteroids, as it is likely that similar landing events will produce similar particles.

Such an event would be completely destructive over a wide area, which corresponds to the area of ​​interaction between the hot beam and the ground, the team warned.

Ginneken said, “To complete the record of asteroid impacts, we recommend that future studies should focus on identifying similar events on different targets.”

These targets include rocky or shallow oceanic basements, as the Antarctic Ice Sheet covers only nine percent of the Earth’s land surface.

“Our research may also be useful for identifying these events in deep-sea sediment cores and, if plume expansion reaches landmasses, the sedimentary record,” he added.

While touchdown events over Antarctica may not pose a threat to human activity, millions of casualties and severe damage would lead to hundreds of miles if they occurred over a densely populated area, they warned.

The findings are published in the journal Science Advances

Explained: the difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

A asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.

A comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as one meteoroidMost are so small that they evaporate into the atmosphere.

When one of these meteoroid reaches Earth, it becomes one meteorite

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally come from asteroids and comets.

For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris in the atmosphere burns and forms a meteor shower.