Asteroid impacts on Earth mirrored on the moon – including the dinosaur killer

Asteroid impacts on Earth mirrored on the moon - including the dinosaur killer
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Lunar craters Langrenus and Petavius

lunar crater. Credit & Copyright: Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau

Moon Glass shows impacts from lunar asteroids reflected on Earth

Scientists have found that asteroid impacts on the moon millions of years ago coincided exactly with some of the largest meteorite impacts on Earth, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

In addition, the new research study also discovered that major impact events on Earth were not events in their own right, but were accompanied by a series of smaller impacts. These results shed new light on asteroid dynamics in the inner Solar System, including the likelihood of potentially devastating Earth-based asteroids.

Led by Curtin University, the international research team studied microscopic glass beads, up to two billion years old, discovered in lunar soil returned to Earth in December 2020 as part of China’s National Space Agency’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission. Because the glass beads were formed by the heat and pressure of meteorite impacts, their age distribution should mimic the impacts and reveal a timeline of bombardment.

Chang'e-5 return pod

The Chang’e-5 return pod with lunar soil samples. Photo credit: China National Space Agency

According to lead author Professor Alexander Nemchin of Curtin University’s Space Science and Technology Center (SSTC) in the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the results suggest that the timing and frequency of asteroid impacts on the Moon may have been mirrored on Earth, which is revealing us more about the evolutionary history of our own planet.

“We combined a wide range of microscopic analysis techniques, numerical modeling and geological surveys to determine how and when these microscopic glass beads from the moon formed,” said Professor Nemchin.

“We found that some of the ages of the moon glass beads matched exactly the ages of some of the largest impact craters on Earth, including the Chicxulub impact crater, which is responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs.

“The study also found that large impact events on Earth, such as the Chicxulub crater 66 million years ago, may have been accompanied by a series of smaller impacts. If correct, this suggests that the lunar impact age-frequency distributions could provide valuable information about impacts on Earth or the inner solar system.”

Future comparative studies could provide further insight into the moon’s geological history, said co-author Associate Professor Katarina Miljkovic, also of Curtin’s SSTC.

“The next step would be to compare the data obtained from these Chang’e-5 samples to other lunar soils and crater ages to uncover other significant lunar-wide impact events, which in turn could provide new evidence of possible impacts affecting life on Earth,” said associate professor Miljkovic.

Reference: “Limiting the Formation and Transport of Impact Glasses on the Moon Using the Age and Chemical Composition of Chang’e-5 Glass Beads” by Tao Long, Yuqi Qian, Marc D. Norman, Katarina Miljkovic, Carolyn Crow, James W Head, Xiaochao Che, Romain Tartèse, Nicolle Zellner, Xuefeng Yu, Shiwen Xie, Martin Whitehouse, Katherine H Joy, Clive R Neal, Joshua F Snape, Guisheng Zhou, Shoujie Liu, Chun Yang, Zhiqing Yang, Chen Wang, Long Xiao, Dunyi Liu, and Alexander Nemchin, September 28, 2022, scientific advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq2542

The international collaboration was supported by the Australian Research Council and included researchers from Australia, China, the US, the UK and Sweden, including co-authors Dr. Marc Norman from

Australian National University
Founded in 1946, the Australian National University (ANU) is a national research university in Canberra, the capital of Australia. The main Acton campus includes seven colleges of teaching and research and several national academies and institutes.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{” attribute=””>Australian National University, Dr. Tao Long from the Beijing SHRIMP Center at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and PhD student Yuqi Qian from the China University of Geosciences.

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