A discovery about an ancient comet could alter how we understand the history of the Earth.
A new discovery by scientists in New York is making waves in the scientific community because it explains a massive spike in global warming 55.6 million years ago — and could shed light on our current situation today. Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that a massive comet smashed into the Earth 10 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the discovery came quite by accident.
In reality, the researchers were trying to find certain types of fossils in New Jersey, but were becoming frustrated in their attempts when they stumbled upon something strange: dark, glassy spheres that could only be microtektites. And these microtektites could only have come from one thing: an extraterrestrial impact with our planet, according to a statement from the institute.
Scientists believed this resulted in the global warming event called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which resulted in a huge global temperature spike of 5 to 8 degrees Celsius over 150,000 years and a rise in sea levels, as well as the extinction of many species. They believe that the huge amount of carbon released by this comet would have dramatically altered the climate of the Earth.
These microtektites have what is called “shocked quartz,” suggesting an incredibly powerful impact, and it was spread over an area from New Jersey to Bermuda.
“This tells us that there was an extraterrestrial impact at the time this sediment was deposited – a space rock hit the planet,” said Morgan Schaller, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rensselaer, and corresponding author of the paper. “The coincidence of an impact with a major climate change is nothing short of remarkable.”