Story of apocalyptic ancient 'cataclysm' which melted Earth's surface revealed
Earth has been hit by some truly epic disasters which threatened to derail the evolution of life.
Now scientists have revealed new details of how this planet survived a ‘cataclysmic past’ which ended with an apocalyptic event which melted the entire surface of our world.
In the era just after Earth formed, the solar system experienced ‘giant planet migration’ in which the biggest planets including Saturn and Jupiter began to move away from the sun.
We don’t understand what caused this phenomenon, but we know it sent huge waves of comets, asteroids and even small mini-worlds called proto-planets or planetesimals into the inner solar system.
A team from the University of Colorado has now sketched a new outline of the story of this epic era and claimed it happened much earlier than expected about 4.48 billion years ago.
The cataclysm ‘began with the comets that came screaming into the inner solar system’ said geologist Stephen Mojzsis.
‘The next wave was planetesimals left over from the formation of the inner planets,’ he continued.
‘The last group to arrive were the asteroids, which continue to leak toward us today.’
Researchers simulated the planets’ movements and analysed meteors on Earth to discover evidence of when this gigantic ‘bombardment’ took place.
The results pointed to 4.48 billion years ago, whereas previous estimates suggested the cataclysm happened about 3.9 billion years ago.
It’s crucial to pinpoint this date because life could have only evolved once the bombardment had ended.
Mojzsis said the findings ‘open up a new window for when life may have evolved on Earth’ and suggest ‘our planet may have been calm enough to support living organisms as early as 4.4 billion years ago’.
The oldest known fossil discovered here on Earth is just 3.5 billion years old.
‘The only way to sterilize the Earth completely is to melt the crust all at once,’ Mojzsis added.
‘We’ve shown that this hasn’t happened since giant planet migration commenced.’
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