Earth is bombarded every year by rocky debris, but the rate of incoming meteorites can change over time.
Earth is bombarded every year by rocky debris, but the rate of incoming meteorites can change over time. Finding enough meteorites scattered on the planet’s surface can be challenging, especially if you are interested in reconstructing how frequently they land. Now, researchers have uncovered a wealth of well-preserved meteorites that allowed them to reconstruct the rate of falling meteorites over the past two million years.
“Our purpose in this work was to see how the meteorite flux to Earth changed over large timescales—millions of years, consistent with astronomical phenomena,” says Alexis Drouard, Aix-Marseille Université, lead author of the new paper in Geology.
To recover a meteorite record for millions of years, the researchers headed to the Atacama Desert. Drouard says they needed a study site that would preserve a wide range of terrestrial ages where the meteorites could persist over long time scales.
While Antarctica and hot deserts both host a large percentage of meteorites on Earth (about 64% and 30%, respectively), Drouard says, “Meteorites found in hot deserts or Antarctica are rarely older than half a million years.” He adds that meteorites naturally disappear because of weathering processes (e.g., erosion by wind), but because these locations themselves are young, the meteorites found on the surface are also young.
Read more at Geological Society of America
Image: Meteorite with thin, dark, fusion crust in the Atacama Desert. Photo by Jérôme Gattacceca (CEREGE). (Credit: Photo by Jérôme Gattacceca (CEREGE))