“Our moon is a witness to the history of the solar system,” says planetary scientist Kentaro Terada at Osaka University in Japan, referring to the lack of erosion on moon’s surface and evidence from the Copernicus crater and glass impact spherules from Apollo landing sites of a massive asteroid storm about 800 million years ago, in which two quadrillion kilograms of rock rained down the moon and Earth. A cosmic storm of about 30 and 60 times as much mass as the Chicxulub impactor that ended the reign the dinosaurs– kickstarting the most brutal ice ages in the planet’s history known as the Cryogenian epoch.
It is difficult to measure the history of Earth’s surface because erosion and the effects of life tend to cover any craters, says Terada, but we can look to the moon for clues. Terada and his colleagues, reports Nature, used images from Japan’s Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), a lunar orbiter known by its nickname Kaguya, to study craters on the moon. Any swarm of objects that gets close enough to hit the moon will probably hit Earth as well, so it can give us hints about our planet’s past.
Copernicus Crater and Apollo Landing Sites Yield Evidence
Terada’s team analysed images of 59 craters to determine their ages and found that eight of them, including the huge Copernicus crater, appear to have formed at around the same time. Based on the relative sizes of Earth and the moon and their proximity, the researchers calculated that if this amount of rock did indeed hit the moon, about 23 times as much probably bombarded Earth from the same cloud of rock debris estimates Terada.
“The Beginning of the Story”
“Those moments of terror may have plunged Earth into the most intense ice ages the planet has ever experienced,” says Terada. However, so much is still unknown about this colossal asteroid storm that, while we know it marked the face of the moon, we can’t say with certainty what its effects on Earth may have been, reports New Scientist.
“From a geological standpoint, this happened quickly, but in reality it was probably spaced out over tens of millions of years or even longer,” says Bill Bottke at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Watching it happen would be boring, punctuated by terror” had any sentient life existed to witness it. Oxygen levels had reached about 21 percent and began to breathe life into more complex organisms.
“It seems like things should have been happening on Earth at the same time, so I’m interested to see it tested against geological data,” says Bottke. “This is not the end of the story, it’s the opening shot.”
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