Astonishing discovery! Oldest meteor strike in history found

Researchers have unearthed evidence of the oldest meteor strike on Earth, which struck the planet billions of years ago.

| Updated on: Apr 06 2023, 19:20 IST
What is a Meteorite? Know about these fallen “space rocks”
1/5 Meteorites are generally meteors that have fallen on Earth. When a meteoroid enters a planet’s atmosphere, it Is termed as a Meteor. If the meteor falls on the surface of the planet without burning up completely, it is called a Meteorite, according to NASA. (AP)
2/5 Therefore, it can be said that meteorites are broken up pieces of a meteor fallen on Earth or any planet’s surface. They can be found in various parts of the world where there have been previous meteor sightings. Meteorites typically range between the size of a pebble and a fist (Pixabay)
3/5 Meteorites can resemble rocks on Earth, but they usually have a burned exterior that can appear shiny. This “fusion crust” forms as the meteorite’s outer surface melts while passing through the atmosphere, according to NASA. (NASA)
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4/5 Although most meteorites found on Earth originate from smaller asteroids, they can also potentially originate at nearby planets such as Mars or even the Moon. Scientists can tell where meteorites originate based on several lines of evidence. They can use photographic observations of meteorite falls to calculate orbits and project their paths back to the asteroid belt. (NASA/JPL)
solar system
5/5 Meteorites that fall to Earth contain information about some of the original, diverse materials that formed planets billions of years ago, according to NASA. By studying meteorites scientists can learn about early conditions of the solar system as well as the processes which happened to reach where we are today. (Pixabay)
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The collected meteor fragments from sedimentary rocks date back billions of years. (Pixabay)

Meteors are objects in space which enter Earth's atmosphere at high speed and burn up, and are visible in the form of fireballs or “shooting stars”. If the meteor falls on the surface of the planet without burning up completely, it is called a Meteorite. Earth's atmosphere usually acts as a barrier and incinerates these objects, but there are instances where this does not happen and fragments reach the surface of the Earth.

Oldest meteor to date

Scientists in Australia have recently uncovered evidence of the oldest meteor strike on Earth. Prior to this discovery, the most ancient evidence of meteor collisions were the 3.47 billion years old spherical fragments discovered in the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia. Now, researchers have revealed that they have found evidence of meteorites that are nearly 3.48 billion years old, making it the oldest meteorite discovery to date.

Chris Yakymchuk, a geologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who was not involved in the research told LiveScience, “This new research documents ejecta in slightly older rocks, which have an age of 3.48 billion years old (about 10 million years older than previously found)”.

The research was conducted by drilling up spherules from volcanic and sedimentary rocks in the same Pilbara Craton. Scientists dated these rocks using isotopes. “This is a robust and reliable dating technique. We have a good idea of their age based on isotope dating of the mineral zircon,” Yakymchuk said further.

Why is it difficult to study meteor impacts?

Collecting and studying evidence of meteoroid collisions with Earth is difficult. Earth's surface, known as crust, is subject to plate tectonics as well as erosion by geological forces, which can eradicate signs of past collisions, impact craters in particular, according to LiveScience. Therefore, the only remaining evidence is the spherules, which scientists use for research purposes.

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First Published Date: 06 Apr, 19:19 IST