When Comets Break Up, the Fragments Can Be Devastating If They Hit the Earth

Comet breakups are a timely topic right now. The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov just broke into at least two pieces. And though that comet is speeding out of the Solar System, never to be seen again, most of them don’t leave the Solar System. Most of them orbit the Sun, and return to the inner Solar System again and again.

A new paper examines the potential hazard to Earth from comets that break into pieces. The author makes the case that comet breakups could have had a hand in shaping the ebb and flow of life on Earth. It could happen again.

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Almost 13,000 Years Ago, a Comet Impact Set Everything on Fire

Roughly 12,800 years ago, planet Earth went through a brief cold snap that was unrelated to any ice age. For years, there have been geologists that have argued that this period was caused by an airburst or meteor fragments (known as the Younger Dryas Impact Theory). This event is beleived to have caused widespread destruction and the demise of the Clovis culture in North American.

This theory has remained controversial since it was first proposed. However, an international team of scientists recently discovered geological evidence in South America that could settle the debate. As the latest indication of an impact that took place during the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) period, this crater indicates that the effects of this event may have been more widespread than previously thought.

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