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Earth froze 2 million years ago: astrophysicists identify culprit

Scientists believe that the location of the Sun in space may influence Earth’s history more than previously thought.

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The authors of a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy believe that a very long period of significant decrease in temperature on Earth occurred as a result of the collision of the solar system with an interstellar cloud, reports Phys.

About 2 million years ago, an era filled with long ice ages began on Earth, which ended in about 12 thousand years. Scientists believe these multiple ice ages may have been caused by changes in the planet’s tilt or rotation, shifting plates, volcanic eruptions, and high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The authors of the new study believe that the Earth froze not as a result of environmental changes on the planet, but due to an external factor.

The authors of a new study believe that the Earth froze not as a result of environmental changes on the planet, but due to an external factor.

Astrophysicists have found evidence that about 2 million years ago, the solar system collided with a very dense interstellar cloud, which affected the heliosphere. Thus, scientists say, the location of the Sun in the galaxy may influence the history of the Earth more than previously thought.

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The solar system is surrounded by a giant bubble of plasma called the heliosphere. Its existence is constantly supported by streams of solar particles or the solar wind that comes out of the Sun. The heliosphere protects the Earth and its inhabitants from harmful galactic radiation.

The authors believe that the collision with the interstellar cloud led to the fact that the heliosphere contracted and for a short time the Earth and other planets of the solar system were out of the influence of the heliosphere. That is, this event influenced the climate on Earth, which led to its cooling. The way the Sun moves through space can affect the chemical composition of our planet’s atmosphere, scientists say.

Using computer modeling, astrophysicists have found out where the Sun and the heliosphere were 2 million years ago. Scientists also studied the movement of several large, cold, dense interstellar clouds, consisting mainly of hydrogen.

As modeling shows, the collision of one of the interstellar clouds with the heliosphere could lead to the fact that the Earth was exposed to the influence of the interstellar medium filled with various chemical elements, including iron and plutonium.

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Due to the fact that the Earth was not protected, many radioactive elements easily reached the planet. These data are consistent with geological data that show elevated levels of iron-60 and plutonium-244 isotopes in the ocean and ice on Earth just about 2 million years ago.

As soon as the interstellar cloud ceased to influence the heliosphere, the latter again surrounded all the planets of the solar system with its protection. Scientists suggest that a similar collision could occur again in 1-2 million years.

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Jake Carter

Jake Carter is a researcher and a prolific writer who has been fascinated by science and the unexplained since childhood. He is always eager to share his findings and insights with the readers of anomalien.com, a website he created in 2013.