Scientists say an asteroid impact that precedes the dinosaur extinction may have been four to six times wider than what hit Earth nearly 65 million years ago. That would mean the incident that wiped out the dinosaurs was merely a soft slap to the face; this other one, which scientists think occurred 3.26 billion years ago, would have been a Mike Tyson punch to the dome. Researchers estimate the asteroid was somewhere from 23 to 36 miles wide, and created a crater about 300 miles wide.
The details of the immense event were collected by studying rocks in a region in South Africa. Scientists believe the impact was so intense that it spurred a transition from early tectonic to the plate-tectonic system we’re familiar with today. The impact would have also had a big affect on life, which is said to have evolved around 3.8 billion years ago. Researchers believe the sky would have filled up with dust, and temperatures would have risen significantly, causing the upper layers of the ocean to boil.
Space.com notes the asteroid impact may have even wiped out a large percentage of the planet’s lifeforms. But obviously life did prevail, and in fact came back in full force with the dinosaurs. However, they, too, fell to an asteroid impact many years later. The event may not have even been unique, either, which sounds terrifying. Researchers believe the mammoth collision was part of a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment, which may have lasted for one billion years.
“We are trying to understand the forces that shaped our planet early in its evolution and the environments in which life evolved,” said Donald Low, researcher at Stanford University.
This same bombardment period, researchers say, also affected other planets inside our solar system, including Mars, Venus, Mercury and Earth’s moon. The image below further illustrates just how big that early asteroid might have been.