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A new study suggests that, on a day about 12,800 years ago, Earth collided with fragments of a disintegrating comet, igniting fires across the globe. The large study, of geochemical and isotopic markers from 170 different sites around the world, was published in two papers in the Journal of Geology on February 1, 2018 (here and here).
At the time, the Earth had emerged from an ice age. Things were warming up, and the glaciers had retreated. In a statement, the researchers imagined what it might have been like for humans at the time:
Sky - Fireballs - Shock - Waves
Out of nowhere, the sky was lit with fireballs. This was followed by shock waves.
Fires rushed across the landscape, and dust clogged the sky, cutting off the sunlight. As the climate rapidly cooled, plants died, food sources were snuffed out, and the glaciers advanced again. Ocean currents shifted, setting the climate into a colder, almost “ice age” state that lasted an additional thousand years.
Researchers - Climate - World - Animals - Example
Finally, the researchers said, the climate began to warm again. This world had fewer large animals, evidenced by, for example, completely different kinds of spear points left behind by North America people of that time.
The researchers believe the data suggests the disaster was touched off when Earth collided with fragments of a disintegrating comet that was roughly 62 miles in diameter — the remnants of which persist within our solar system to this day.
Melott - Professor - Physics - Astronomy - University
Adrian Melott, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at University of Kansas is a study author. Melott said in a statement:
The hypothesis is that a large comet fragmented and the chunks impacted the Earth, causing this disaster. A number of different...
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