(ORDO NEWS) — When a huge asteroid ended the reign of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, there appeared to be a burst of cratering on the Moon, and the two phenomena are likely related.
Large asteroid impacts can be accompanied by collisions with smaller objects hitting the Earth as well as the Moon.
The age of lunar glass collected by the Chang’e 5 mission indicates clusters of craters coinciding with the Chicxulub event, plus two other periods associated with major Earth impacts.
Just last month, a crater was discovered off the west coast of Africa dating back a million years after the Chicxulub crater.
The researchers studied the smaller crater and concluded that the similarity in time could mean that a double asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago.
A disturbance in the asteroid belt could have caused several asteroids to cross Earth’s trajectories at the same time, eventually leading to multiple impacts on our planet.
This scenario looks more likely thanks to the analysis of glass beads formed as a result of cosmic impacts. Such beads are rare on Earth as our atmosphere protects us from small asteroids.
And those that are formed are buried by geological processes. However, there is a lot of this goodness on the Moon.
“We have combined a wide range of microscopic analysis, numerical simulations and geological studies to determine how and when these microscopic glass beads from the Moon were formed,” said Curtin University professor Alexander Nemchin.
“We found that some of the age groups of the lunar glass balls closely match the ages of some of the largest impact crater events on earth, including the Chicxulub impact crater responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.”
The authors of the study determined the age of the balls by measuring how much of the uranium contained in them decayed.
Using the sizes of nearby craters, they created statistical models for the likelihood that each one was responsible for the globules.
The method gave fairly wide errors for crater ages, but the authors note that “14 out of 30 craters have model ages between 53 ± 12 and 73 ± 10 million years ago, including the second largest crater.”
The researchers are also reporting a spike in the number of 34-million-year-old beads. This coincides with the appearance of the 100 km diameter Popigai crater and three smaller areas that are collectively known as Late Eocene craters.
The age of the largest crater in the vicinity of Chang’e-5 is estimated at 479 million years, which coincides with the Ordovician craters on Earth.
The study was limited by the fact that all the beads were from the same place, where a lava flow about 2 billion years ago covered everything that had formed earlier.
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