(ORDO NEWS) — Dozens of tons of extraterrestrial solid material collide with Earth every day. Most of it burns up in the atmosphere, but some fragments can pose a serious danger to us.
In 2013, a body 20 meters in diameter exploded over Chelyabinsk, seriously injuring more than 1,500 people. In 2007, a meteorite hit a small village in Peru.
In 1947, an asteroid impact led to the formation of a crater field in Sikhote-Alin. And in 1908, a celestial body exploded over Siberia, destroying 2000 km2 of forest.
We can prepare for this natural hazard by understanding how often similar impacts have occurred in the past and how they have affected the environment.
In an article published in the journal Geology of the Geological Society of America, scientists report that analysis of the bodies of organisms that died as a result of meteor impacts can show us exactly how much damage was done at the site of such a cosmic impact.
An international team of researchers dug trenches at the edges of four craters (2 craters Kaali in Estonia, Morasco in Poland and Whitecourt in Alberta, Canada) located on two different continents. Scientists noted that in all these places, pieces of charcoal ranging in size from a millimeter to a centimeter were found.
“The properties of organisms that turn into coal reflect the conditions under which they died,” explained Anya Loziak, author of the work from the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
“These conditions, including the temperature to which the wood has been exposed or the heating time, leave telling marks in the structure of the material.”
Coals formed as a result of a forest fire and those found in impact craters can be distinguished from each other.
Professor Claire Belcher of the University of Exeter explained: “Impact embers formed at much lower temperatures than charcoal formed in a fire.
They lack the areas that are formed by direct contact with the flame, and they are all very similar to each other, while in a fire you can often find heavily charred wood next to barely affected branches.
“This study improves our understanding of the environmental impact of small impact craters.
So in the future, when we detect an asteroid with a diameter of several meters approaching us, we will be able to more accurately determine the size and type of the necessary evacuation zone, ”said Professor Chris Hurd from the University of Alberta.
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