Meteorite Collisions From Earth’s Distant Past Played a Role in Continent Formation

Meteorite Collisions From Earth’s Distant Past Played a Role in Continent Formation

Earth’s distant past was nothing but a peaceful place. Our planet had to go through constant bombardment from asteroids until it became a habitable place. But not many scientists thought that it is possible for continents to emerge as a result of meteorite impacts.

Later on, our planet featured one supercontinent called Pangea that slowly broke into the seven continents we know today: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. According to ScienceAlert, researchers now believe that meteorite impacts also contributed to the disruption of the supercontinent, thanks to a new study published in Nature.

Scientists rely their claim on crystals of zircon found in Western Australia. The zircon crystals found in the Pilbara Craton carry evidence of meteorite impacts that occurred way back in the Earth’s history.

Tim Johnson, a geologist from Curtin University in Australia, explained:

Studying the composition of oxygen isotopes in these zircon crystals revealed a ‘top-down’ process starting with the melting of rocks near the surface and progressing deeper, consistent with the geological effect of giant meteorite impacts,

Our research provides the first solid evidence that the processes that ultimately formed the continents began with giant meteorite impacts, similar to those responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, but which occurred billions of years earlier.

According to previous work, the Pangea continent is thought to have existed between roughly 299 million years ago, meaning at the start of the Permian Period of geological time, to about 180 million years ago, which means during the Jurassic Period. Surprisingly or not, many dinosaurs lived during periods when there was a single continent on Earth. Non-bird dinosaurs are thought to have lived until 66 million years ago and started about 245 million years ago.


Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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