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 The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline
16.10.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht WSU researchers document one of planet's largest volcanic eruptions
12.10.2017 | Washington 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: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>