Ancient meteorite triggered volcanic eruptions on Earth


Nearly two billion years ago, a massive space rock slammed into Earth, creating a deep basin 1.5 kilometers thick.

In a new analysis on the rocks filling the ancient structure, which is situated in modern-day Canada, researchers discovered rocks that had melted after the impact, as well as volcanic fragments indicative of violent eruptions.

The find suggests meteorite bombardment can set off long-lasting volcanic activity that changes over time, altering Earth’s surface and even the climate as the crust initially melts and intense eruptions pull up material from deep within.

Along with the melted target rocks that first filled the area after the impact, the researchers also found distinctly shaped volcanic fragments that resemble a ‘crab claw.’ These are created when gas bubbles expand in molten rock, which then explodes in a violent eruption

Along with the melted target rocks that first filled the area after the impact, the researchers also found distinctly shaped volcanic fragments that resemble a ‘crab claw.’ These are created when gas bubbles expand in molten rock, which then explodes in a violent eruption

Along with the melted target rocks that first filled the area after the impact, the researchers also found distinctly shaped volcanic fragments that resemble a ‘crab claw.’ These are created when gas bubbles expand in molten rock, which then explodes in a violent eruption

WHAT THEY FOUND 

An international team of researchers studied rocks in one of the largest preserved impact structures on the planet, which was created 1.85 billion years ago when a meteorite slammed into our planet.

They discovered both melted target rocks and ‘crab claw’ shaped volcanic fragments that are indicative of a violent eruption.

Through the years that followed the impact, the composition of the volcanic fragments changed, the researchers found.

At first, the activity was related to the melting of Earth’s crust.

As time passed, though, they found that volcanism was fed by magma from deep within the planet.

An international team of researchers, led by geochemists from Trinity College Dublin, studied rocks in one of the largest preserved impact structures on the planet.

The basin, located in Sudbury, was created 1.85 billion years ago when a meteorite slammed into our planet.

Along with the melted target rocks that first filled the area after the impact, the researchers also found distinctly shaped volcanic fragments that resemble a ‘crab claw.’

These are created when gas bubbles expand in molten rock, which then explodes in a violent eruption, often involving water.

The researchers found that the eruptions in the crater occurred over a long period of time following the impact.

And, during this time, the basin was flooded with sea water.

Through the years that followed the impact, the composition of the volcanic fragments changed, the researchers found.

An international team of researchers studied rocks in one of the largest preserved impact structures on the planet. The basin, located in Sudbury, was created 1.85 billion years ago when a meteorite slammed into our planet. An aerial view of the basin is shown 

An international team of researchers studied rocks in one of the largest preserved impact structures on the planet. The basin, located in Sudbury, was created 1.85 billion years ago when a meteorite slammed into our planet. An aerial view of the basin is shown 

An international team of researchers studied rocks in one of the largest preserved impact structures on the planet. The basin, located in Sudbury, was created 1.85 billion years ago when a meteorite slammed into our planet. An aerial view of the basin is shown 

At first, the activity was related to the melting of Earth’s crust.

As time passed, though, they found that volcanism was fed by magma from deep within the planet.

‘This is an important finding, because it means that the magma sourcing the volcanoes was changing with time,’ said Balz Kamber, Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Trinity.

‘The reason for the excitement is that the effect of large impacts on the early Earth could be more serious than previously considered.’

Nearly two billion years ago, a massive space rock slammed into Earth, creating a deep basin 1.5 kilometers thick in what's now Canada. A stock image is pictured 

Nearly two billion years ago, a massive space rock slammed into Earth, creating a deep basin 1.5 kilometers thick in what's now Canada. A stock image is pictured 

Nearly two billion years ago, a massive space rock slammed into Earth, creating a deep basin 1.5 kilometers thick in what’s now Canada. A stock image is pictured 

In a new analysis on the rocks filling the ancient structure, which is situated in modern-day Canada, researchers discovered rocks that had melted after the impact, as well as volcanic fragments indicative of violent eruptions. A map of the basin is pictured 

In a new analysis on the rocks filling the ancient structure, which is situated in modern-day Canada, researchers discovered rocks that had melted after the impact, as well as volcanic fragments indicative of violent eruptions. A map of the basin is pictured 

In a new analysis on the rocks filling the ancient structure, which is situated in modern-day Canada, researchers discovered rocks that had melted after the impact, as well as volcanic fragments indicative of violent eruptions. A map of the basin is pictured 

In Earth’s early days, there was a short period during which roughly 150 massive impacts occurred, the researchers say.

Since then, though, the number has trickled down to just a handful.

These impacts likely played a major role in the planet’s structure, and the researchers say a similar effect could be present on other worlds where lack of plate tectonics would preserve the ancient surface features, like Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Moon.

‘The intense bombardment of the early Earth had destructive effects on the planet’s surface but it may also have brought up material from the planet’s interior,’ Professor Kamber said, ‘which shaped the overall structure of the planet.’



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