Artist's impression of asteroid 'super impact'

Artist's impression of asteroid 'super impact'

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Credit: NASA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Artist's impression of a 'super-impact'. A very large asteroid, about 800km in diameter, strikes the Earth. The energy of the impact, equivalent to about 5 trillion nuclear bombs, would be enough to vaporise the oceans and melt the Earth's crust. Studies of lunar impact patterns have indicated subsequent smaller impacts on Earth. These would have killed any life-forms near the surface, where life is thought to have originated, but not any bacteria which had migrated to the bottom of the oceans. It is suggested, therefore, that deep-sea bacteria are the true ancestors of life on Earth. An impact of the size seen here would have destroyed all life - 'sterilising' Earth.

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Keywords: artwork, asteroid, asteroid impact, environment, extinction, geography, impact, mass, mass extinction, meteorite craters, super-impact

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