Astronomers have discovered intriguing evidence as an asteroid break-up blanked Earth with dust millions of years ago. The event dramatically cooled the planet and triggered an ice age that was followed by major numbers in numbers of new animal species.
The work, led by Birger Schmitz of Lund University in Sweden, was recently published inScience Advancesand provides new insight in the impact of interplanetary events on our planet’s evolution. “We know about the 10 asteroid km that crashed on Earth 67 million years Schmitz told the
Reduced radiation causes Earth to cool significantly, setting off a succession of ice ages. Water froze, ice caps spread and sea levels dropped, creating isolated shallow seas that were ideal for generating new species. Cold water also has more oxygen, which would also have boosted speciation. Scientists have already come into contact with this phenomenon and that life has increased dramatically in biodiversity, particularly in the sea. The first coral reefs began to grow then, and strange tentacled predators called nautiloids appeared. This is known as the Great Ordovician Biodification Event, or Gobe.
Scientists have argued over the cause of Gobe, but now Schmitz, after studying dust particles in seabed, sediments laid down at this time, says it was triggered by clouds of asteroid dust. “The sediments laid down at this time are rich in the helium-3 isotope – which they could only have picked up traveling through space,” he said. “It is a crucial clue.”
Other scientists have backed his idea. “Gobe, but it is certainly a lot of observations,” Rebecca Freeman, of the University of Kentucky, Lexington, told the journalSciencerecently.
However, Schmitz’s research has also caused interest for another reason. As the world warms dangerously, some scientists have proposed to spread the word that they would sit in space above the Earth and reflect sunlight away from our overheating planet. The idea is controversial because it could have many unpleasant side-effects, say critics.
Now evidence shows such an experiment occurred naturally 470 million years ago. The result was a major change in our meteorology and the evolution of life here. “It is certainly worth bearing on my mind in coming years,” added Schmitz.
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