About 430,000 years ago a big meteorite flew above the Antarctic. It exploded in the air and devastated a wide area. The Tunguska event was tiny compared to what happened here.
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Once upon a time, back in the Pleistocene roughly 430,000 years ago, something happened in the Antarctic. We can be damn sure no humans were there to witness it. For millions of years, the Earth was going through one of the coldest periods of its history.
The Antarctic was a spectral land of devastating cold. And then a meteorite came into the lands. But it didn’t fall. It exploded in the air. You may have heard a similar story. A story that took place on the 30th of June in the year 1908. The Tunguska event. That explosion is estimated to have a power of 3 to 30 megatons of TNT – about 2,000 times more powerful than the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima.
According to the team that discovered evidence of the meteorite explosion over the Antarctic this event had to be much more devastating. Matthias van Ginneken who led a team from the Belgian Geological Survey and Vrije Universiteit Brussel estimates the meteorite was about 150 meters large and was pretty fast. This ended up in an extreme explosion and the surface of the Antarctic was hit with a huge stream of steam and hot remains of the meteorite. In other words, it was one hell of a show.
The researchers discovered particles coming from this explosion. These particles were clearly extraterrestrial in origin and were found at the Walnumfjellet mountain in the Sør Rondane mountain range. The extraterrestrial origin was indicated because of the chemical make-up of the particles, especially the high amount of nickel. At the same time, the scientists discovered a unique amount of oxygen isotopes that points towards the fact the material from the meteorite and from the surface of the Antarctic mixed.
The authors of the study also point out that we are underestimating the risks coming from similarly sized meteorites. They seem to hit the Earth somewhat regularly (in geological times) and can cause damage in large areas. But now we know what we should look for and we should look for evidence of similar events all over the world.
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