Back when there were no trees on Earth and only single-celled organisms lived on the planet, a giant asteroid fell. This asteroid is the largest among them that has ever hit our planet. The collision took place in present-day Johannesburg, South Africa.
As a result, a 280-kilometer crater was formed. At first, it was believed that the diameter of this asteroid was 15 kilometers. However, new research from the University of Rochester tells us that the asteroid was actually 25 kilometers in diameter.
Researchers used an innovative method to calculate the size of the asteroid. They found that an asteroid with a diameter of 15 kilometers would have created a crater of 172 kilometers on impact, in order to create a crater of 280 kilometers the asteroid would have to be much larger.
The case of the Chixulubu crater is also interesting. It is believed that the cause of the mass extinction of dinosaurs is an asteroid with a diameter of 10 kilometers. It was he who gave birth to the Chixulubu crater. An asteroid wiped out 75 percent of the plant and animal species on Earth 66 million years ago.
However, 2 billion years ago, when the largest asteroid in Earth’s history hit the planet, life was not widespread. Nevertheless, it is believed that Vredefort’s impact would have had a greater impact on the global climate than Chicxulub.
The dust from the asteroid impact would have blocked out the sun and this would have continued for decades. This “remedial measure” from the sun would cause the Earth’s surface temperature to cool significantly. And when the dust disappeared, the carbon dioxide emitted by the impact would, in turn, cause the planet’s temperature to rise by several degrees.
Impacts of such magnitude and time period are important for understanding the geographic layout of the Earth 2 billion years ago. In addition to helping us better understand what the planet looked like 2 billion years ago, understanding an impact of this size allows researchers to study other large planetary impacts and assess the potential effects of future collisions.