During the Eocene epoch in the Paleogene period, an asteroid collided with Earth that caused the highest temperatures ever felt on the planet.
According to new research, the event caused cubic zirconia to form, meaning temperatures must have reached 2,370 degrees Celsius or higher.
The collision formed the Mistastin Lake crater in Canada, which measures over 17 miles in diameter. This study was a revolutionary one as it used the presence of zirconia and rock melt in the Mistastin Lake crater in Canada to measure temperatures at the time of the impact.
“Nobody has even considered using zirconia as a recorder of temperatures of impact melts before. This is the first time that we have an indication that real rocks can get that hot,” Dr. Nicholas Timms, lead author of the research, told New Scientist.
Researchers from Curtin University in Australia and Western University in Ontario conducted the study that examined how the Earth’s crust was shaped and changed after collisions with rocks from space.
Calculating exact temperatures during early asteroid strikes was difficult, as many rocks and minerals evaporate in extreme heat. But the formation of zirconia and its presence in the crater sheds new light on what conditions were like billions of years ago.
The new study will help geologists and scientists gain a better understanding of what Earth was like during its early periods, and sheds new light on the impact of asteroid strikes.