New research has surfaced claiming that the seven continents on the globe were created by the impacts of a giant meteorite, similar to the one that managed to wipe dinosaurs off the face of the earth.
Supposedly, the phenomena also occurred over three-and-a-half billion years ago, which was way before there was life on earth. As a result, this sheds brand new light on the theory of evolution.
Scientists are looking at a mineral called zircon, analyzing the microscopic grains that are said to act like a ‘geological clock.’ These zircon particles were dug up from ancient rocks at Pilbara Craton in Western Australia, which has actually been called ‘the oldest place on Earth.’
It was lead author of the study, Dr. Tim Johnson of Curtin University in Perth, who studied the composition of oxygen isotopes in the zircon crystals, finding a “top-down process”.
Dr. Johnson shared, “It started with the melting of rocks near the surface and progressed deeper—consistent with the geological effect of giant meteorite impacts.”
He added, “Our research provides the first solid evidence the processes that ultimately formed the continents began with giant meteorite impacts. They were similar to that responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, but occurred billions of years earlier.”
The research also shares that this is what led to the giant continents we have today in order of size as Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia.
Dr. Johnson also said that the study has some implications that talk about how to combat global warming, explaining, “Not least, the continents host critical metals such as lithium, tin and nickel… essential to the emerging green technologies needed to mitigate climate change.”
Also known as the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment,’ this is when massive space rocks would regularly smash into earth all throughout the first quarter of the four-and-a-half-billion year history of the planet. And it also shared that if the bombardment had continued, life as we know it would have never existed at all.
The theory that continents originally formed at these sites has been ongoing for decades, but proof of this has only truly surfaced now.
“The Pilbara Craton represents Earth’s best-preserved remnant of ancient crust. By examining tiny crystals of the mineral zircon in rocks we found evidence of these giant meteorite impacts,” says Johnson.
The study also claps back on when the cratons – or the first continents – actually emerged from the ocean. This was believed to have happened around 2.5 billion years ago. Published in the journal Nature, the findings show evidence that it actually happened much earlier.
Supposedly, they formed into one ‘supercontinent’ called Pangaea, that began breaking apart around 175 million years ago. They formed into these different segments and formations which drifted into what we now see today.
Dr. Johnson also explained that the huge impact that happened 3.6 billion years ago would have prompted ‘massive mantle melting to produce a thick nucleus.’ Moreover, there is related data with other ancient continental crust in areas on earth which appear to show patterns very similar to those that were found in Western Australia. The research group also shares that they feel their model is “widely applicable” and they will continue to test in other areas.
“Earth is the only planet known to have continents, although how they formed and evolved is unclear. However, all along it seems the evidence was right beneath our feet,” added Dr. Johnson.
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