A meteorite that exploded over Antarctica about 430,000 years ago was “completely devastating over a large area,” according to a new study documenting the discovery of 17 particles left out of the explosion. Rescued from the top of a hill called Walnumfjellet, rare fragments indicate that the space rock must have been at least 100 meters (330 feet) in diameter and collided with the ground with high velocity. What is strange about this event, however, is that the meteor of the question was not enough to leave the effect unattended, yet it was enough to reach the earth without burning in the atmosphere.
In a study published in the journal Science Advances, the study authors described the effect as a rare “intermediate touchdown event” that allowed a “molten and vapor meteorite” to reach the surface, causing severe damage but lacking concentration to create a whole Necessary. The discovery of the particles was a surprise in itself, which was less than half a millimeter in size. Researchers using scanning electron microscopy found that the fragments were mostly made of iron and olivine, with high nickel content.
This corresponds to a combination of specific meteors, confirming that the particles were extraterrestrial. The small pieces of space rock also contain oxygen isotopes that are characteristic of Antarctic ice, suggesting that they will impact the surface without burning in the air. This suggests that when a meteorite erupts, the evaporated material is rapidly sent to the ground, where it condenses as it mixes with the Antarctic ice.
What’s more, the resulting condensed spirals were highly similar in their chemical composition to the spirals that spread from two other touchdown events that occurred in Antarctica about 430,000 years ago. Based on these observations, the researchers hypothesized that these particles were produced by the same exploding asteroid, suggesting that the effect produced debris spanning a vast region. As such, the authors of the study conclude that meteorite explosions of this size are likely to produce explosive effects of up to 100,000 sq km (38,610 sq mi), as well as generate sufficient thermal radiation to ignite fires in 10 regions from 1,000 sq km (3.86) (square miles) wide.
“Human activity cannot be threatened if a collision occurs over Antarctica, if it occurs over a densely populated area; it could cause the death and serious loss of millions of people over millions of kilometers,” study author Matthias van Ginneken explained that in a statement.