We are living in the debris field of an ancient asteroid collision
Just as plants were beginning to shape the face of the Earth, long before the dinosaurs ruled the planet, an asteroid collision took place in space which caused the space rocks to shatter into millions of pieces.
Now, around 466m years later, the debris of said asteroids are raining down on us.
Experts are now studying the fragments which reveal that Earth’s history with meteorites is much more complex than previously thought and are using the information to piece together the history of the Solar System.
Team member Philipp Heck from the Field Museum in Chicago said: "Looking at the kinds of meteorites that have fallen to Earth in the last 100million years doesn't give you a full picture.
The collision occured over 460 million years ago
"It would be like looking outside on a snowy winter day and concluding that every day is snowy, even though it's not snowy in the summer.”
Scientists who have dedicated their careers examining meteorites were stumped as to why the composition of them did not match that of asteroids in the asteroid belt – a disc of space rocks between Mars and Jupiter.
But now a team may have the answer.
Earth is still being bombarded by the ancient asteroid collision
By examining meteorites that came to Earth before the collision, they found that they are different to meteorites that came post-collision.
A third of the meteorites that came before are known as primitive achondrites whereas only half a per cent of the tiny space rocks that hit Earth now are of that composition.
However, one of the most common meteorites today – known as L chrondites – was extremely rare before the collision, leading experts to believe that we are still living in the debris shower of the ancient collision.
Before the collision, it is thought that most of the meteorites came from Vesta – a small, ancient planet that was destroyed by asteroid impacts and now is in the asteroid belt.
Top Facts About Asteroids
Wed, October 12, 2016
Asteroids are small, rocky objects that orbit the Sun. The first asteroid was Ceres, discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801. There are currently over 600,000 known asteroids in our solar system. Most asteroids are found orbiting in the Asteroid Belt, a series of rings located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
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There are Millions of Asteroids in the solar system, usually found in the Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, however those in that pass the Earth are called Near-Earth objects
Mr Heck added: “Knowing more about the different kinds of meteorites that have fallen over time gives us a better understanding of how the Asteroid Belt evolved and how different collisions happened.
“Ultimately, we want to study more windows in time, not just the area before and after this collision during the Ordovician period, to deepen our knowledge of how different bodies in Solar System formed and interact with each other.”