June 18, 2024

LAWRENCE — It’s the stuff of a Hollywood disaster epic. A comet plunges from outer space and smashes into the earth, splitting the sky with a devastating shock wave that flattens forests and shakes the ground. It’s also the stuff of a Kansas University research study. This week in San Francisco, KU physics and astronomy professor Adrian Melott is talking about his new way to find where comets have hit the earth. He said ice core samples with high levels of nitrate and ammonia are a marker for comet hits. His study shows a devastating ice age was started by a comet hitting present-day Greenland 13,000 years ago and the 1908 Tunguska impact in Siberia was also caused by a comet.

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