What Insights Does This Crater In Australia Hold to Earth’s Past?

Over the course of Earth’s history, there have been several cases of small and large asteroids hitting the Earth’s surface. Many of those impacts have set into motion events that shaped the Earth’s history. There is much we can learn about our planet’s history from what is believed to be the oldest known impact crater in the world, called Yarrabubba. 

The Significance of the Yarrabubba Asteroid 

What Secrets Does This Crater In Australia Hold to Earth’s Past?

Located in Australia near the town of Meekatharra, this crater has been found to be around 2.2 billion years old. According to the scientists that lead the research, this asteroid’s impact may have been the catalyst of the glacial warming period that brought an end to the ice age. By studying the impact-shocked crystals found at the site, the scientists could determine how old the impact site was. The minerals found on the walls had traces of uranium which deteriorates over time, allowing the scientists to determine a timeline more easily. The impact has been placed around 200 million years earlier to the next impact event, which was in Vredefort, South Africa.

Could It Have Actually Ended the Ice Age

Due to the heat and energy released upon impact, the Earth released significant amounts of water vapor. As an effective greenhouse gas, water vapor could have caused the Earth’s atmosphere to warm over the years, bringing a slow end to the ice age. Managing to time the event in the Proterozoic era was an immense achievement on its own. Understanding that the timelines match other Earth events, such as the ending of the ice age, is also quite exciting. 

What Secrets Does This Crater In Australia Hold to Earth’s Past?

What exactly brought about the warming 2.2 billion years ago remains uncertain. Other theories state that volcanic activity forced carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing the warming. Although the theory of the asteroid impact putting into motion the warming that will bring about the end of an ice age cannot be tested to the proper extent, there is still so much we can learn from the amazing Yarrabubba crater.