SCIENTISTS think a huge asteroid shower rained down on the Earth and Moon 800 million years ago.
The researchers studied 59 lunar craters and concluded that a 62 mile wide asteroid broke up and caused a space rock downpour.
If a similar event occurred today it would be catastrophic.
The research was led by Osaka University in Japan.
Lead author of the study Professor Terada says: "Our research results have provided a novel perspective on earth science and planetary science.
"They will yield a wide range of positive effects in various research fields."
The scientists used the Terrain Camera (TC) onboard the lunar orbiter spacecraft Kaguya to observe craters.
They think a giant asteroid was disrupted, resulting in 50trillion kilos of meteorites heading for the Earth-Moon system.
An asteroid around 10 miles wide is thought to have hit Earth during the meteor shower and contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The probability of an asteroid this large hitting Earth is said to be once in every 100 million years.
Looking for impact craters on Earth from this time period is difficult due to erosion, volcanoes and other geological processes making them disappear.
This is why the scientists focussed their study on the Moon where there is almost no erosion.
Each crater they focussed on had a diameter of 20km (12miles) or more.
The researchers think the asteroid shower could have brought a large amount of phosphorous to Earth and changed the surface environment.
They also think it could have contaminated the lunar surface with 'volatile' elements.
It's thought some of the meteorites that didn't impact stayed in an asteroid belt orbiting in the Solar System or became near Earth asteroids.
This study has been published in Nature Communications.
What's the difference between an asteroid, meteor and comet?
Here's what you need to know, according to Nasa…
- Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but they can be found anywhere (including in a path that can impact Earth)
- Meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids
- Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere, it begins to vapourise and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it'll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up
- Meteorite: If a meteoroid doesn't vapourise completely and survives the trip through Earth's atmosphere, it can land on the Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
- Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun. However rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them (thanks to the ice and dust vapourising)
In other news, Comet Neowise is making its closest approach to Earth this week.
Astronomers claim to have found a mysterious space structure spanning 1.4 billion light years across called the South Pole Wall.
And, Nasa astronauts are on a spacewalk today.
What do you think of this ancient asteroid discovery? Let us know in the comments…
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