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3.5 billion-year-old glass beads found in Australia point to mega asteroid hit

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Carlos Marier
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Photo: SCMP Pictures

Australian scientists have found evidence of a huge asteroid they say slammed into Earth some 3.46 billion years ago – making it the second oldest known to have hit the planet and larger than the one blamed for wiping out the dinosaurs.

Andrew Glikson, from the Australian National University s Planetary Institute, said that while the asteroid would have been massive, the exact location of where it hit was not known.

The impact would have triggered earthquakes orders of magnitude greater than terrestrial earthquakes, it would have caused huge tsunamis and would have made cliffs crumble, he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Glikson said he and Arthur Hickman from the Geological Survey of Western Australia had found tiny glass beads called spherules, which are formed by vaporised material from an asteroid s impact, in Australia s remote northwest.

It dates from 3.46 billion years ago.

Tests on the beads found in Western Australia found levels of elements such as platinum, nickel and chromium corresponding with those found in asteroids, according to the scientists paper in Precambrian Research.

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