Oxygen sucking asteroids could have permanently altered Earth's atmosphere

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Oct 22, 2021, 11:42 AM(IST)

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The space rocks, that treated the Earth as a punching bag approximately 4 billion years ago, could have sucked oxygen from the planet's atmosphere as per the study published in Nature Geoscience

A new study has found that asteroids that pelted the Earth could have significantly altered the chemical composition of the planet.

The space rocks, that treated the Earth as a punching bag approximately 4 billion years ago, could have sucked oxygen from the planet's atmosphere as per the study published in Nature Geoscience.

According to planetary geologist Simone Marchi, ''Current bombardment models underestimate the number of late Archean spherule layers.''

''This suggests the impactor flux at that time was up to 10 times higher than previously thought.''

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When large asteroids or comets struck Earth during the Early Age, the energy released melted and vaporised rocky materials in the planet's crust. 

The small droplets of molten rock in the impact plume would condense, solidify and fall back to Earth, creating round, globally distributed sand-size particles. 

These glassy particles, known as impact spherules, populated multiple thin, discrete layers in the Earth's crust, ranging in age from about 2.4 to 3.5 billion years old. These layers act as markers of ancient collisions. 

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Dr. Nadja Drabon, a professor at Harvard University and a co-author of the paper said, ''In recent years, a number of new spherule layers have been identified in drill cores and outcrops, increasing the total number of known impact events during the early Earth.''

Earth’s atmosphere has an abundance of oxygen due to a balance of production and removal processes. 

These new findings correspond to the geological record, which shows that oxygen levels in the atmosphere varied but stayed relatively low in the early Archean eon. 

Impacts by bodies larger than six miles (10 km) in diametre may have contributed to its scarcity, as limited oxygen present in the atmosphere of early Earth would have been chemically consumed by impact vapors, further reducing its abundance in the atmosphere.

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