Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Meteorites rained on Earth after massive asteroid breakup

09.05.2003


Geologists find meteorites 100 times more common in wake of ancient asteroid collision



Using fossil meteorites and ancient limestone unearthed throughout southern Sweden, marine geologists at Rice University have discovered that a colossal collision in the asteroid belt some 500 million years ago led to intense meteorite strikes over the Earth’s surface.

The research, which appears in this week’s issue of Science magazine, is based upon an analysis of fossil meteorites and limestone samples from five Swedish quarries located as much as 310 miles (500 km.) apart. The limestone formed from sea bottom sediments during a 2 million-year span about 480 million years ago, sealing the intact meteorites, as well as trace minerals from disintegrated meteorites, in a lithographic time capsule.


"What we are doing is astronomy, but instead of looking up at the stars, we are looking down into the Earth," said lead researcher Birger Schmitz, who conducted his analysis during his tenure as the Wiess Visiting Professor of Earth Science at Rice. Schmitz is professor of marine geology at Göteborg University in Sweden.

Meteorite activity on earth is relatively uniform today, with an average of about one meteorite per year falling every 7,700 square miles (12,500 sq. km.). The new study found a 100-fold increase in meteorite activity during the period when the limestone was forming, a level of activity that was present over the entire 150,000-square-mile (250,000 sq. km.) search area.

Some 20 percent of the meteorites landing on Earth today are remnants of a very large asteroid that planetary scientists refer to as the "L-chondrite parent body." This asteroid broke apart around 500 million years ago in what scientists believe is the largest collision that occurred in late solar system history.

Schmitz and his colleagues looked for unique extraterrestrial forms of the mineral chromite that are found only in meteorites from the L-chondrite breakup. They found that all the intact fossil meteorites in the Swedish limestone came from the breakup. Moreover, they found matching concentrations of silt and sand-sized grains of extraterrestrial chromite in limestone from all five quarries, indicating that meteorite activity following the breakup was occurring at the same rate over the entire area.

The research helps explain why Schmitz and his colleagues at Göteborg have been able to collect so many fossilized meteorites from a single quarry near Kinnekulle, Sweden over the past decade. Fossil meteorites embedded in stratified rock are extremely rare. Only 55 have ever been recovered, and Schmitz’s group found 50 of those.

"It is true that we are lucky to be looking in just the right place -- a layer of lithified sediments that was forming on the sea floor immediately after this massive collision," said Schmitz. "But on the other hand, we would never have started looking there in the first place if the quarry workers hadn’t been finding the meteorites on a regular, yet still rare, basis."

Until Schmitz’s group started working with the quarry crew, the fossilized meteorites were discarded because they blemish the finished limestone. Schmitz believes it’s possible that similar concentrations of fossilized meteorites and extraterrestrial chromite grains are present worldwide in limestone that formed during the period following the asteroid breakup. He recently got funding to look for evidence of this in China, and he said there are South American sites that are also favorable.


The research was sponsored by the National Geographic Society and the Swedish Research Council.

Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://chico.rice.edu/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems
23.01.2018 | University of Exeter

nachricht How climate change weakens coral 'immune systems'
23.01.2018 | Ohio State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Transportable laser

23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>