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Scientists: Meteor Strike Caused A Mass Extinction Nearly 35 Million Years Ago

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A meteorite as it enters Earth's atmosphere during the Leonid meteor shower. (Photo: George Varros and Dr. Peter Jenniskens/NASA/Getty Images)

A meteorite as it enters Earth’s atmosphere during the Leonid meteor shower. (Photo: George Varros and Dr. Peter Jenniskens/NASA/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (CBS Sacramento) – A meteor that crashed into what is now remote Siberia nearly destroyed all life on Earth around 35 million years ago.

That  theory was presented at the Californian Goldschmidt geochemistry conference underway at the Sacramento Convention Center

The Popigai crater is the 10th largest meteor impact site in the world. It had been off limits to scientists until after the fall of the Soviet Union, largely because of rare diamonds found on the site that were created by the sheer force of the meteor slamming into graphite material in the soil.

UCLA scientists dated rocks from beneath the crater and found they matched the time of a mass extinction event that occurred during the Eocene Era.

Geologists had believed the “Eocene extinction” was likely caused by rapid climate change. This new finding suggests the impact created an “impact winter.” So much material is blasted into the atmosphere that the sun can actually be dimmed and the planet surface grow colder.

“I don’t think this will be the smoking gun, but it reopens the door to Popigai being involved in the mass extinction,” said lead study author Matt Wielicki, a UCLA graduate student.

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