Experts say the mysterious rise in strikes may have spelled doom for the dinosaurs, who were wiped out by an asteroid around 60million years ago.
“It’s perhaps fair to say it was a date with destiny for the dinosaurs,” said study author Dr Thomas Gernon, from the University of Southampton.
“Their downfall was somewhat inevitable given the surge of large space rocks colliding with Earth.” Space boffins at the University of Southampton examined asteroid craters on the moon to come to their finding.
Many of Earth’s ancient craters have worn away after millennia of eroding weather and tectonic plate shifts. The moon doesn’t have this problem, meaning its oldest impact holes are still in tact.
Because Earth and its neighbour have been hit by the same proportion of asteroids over time, scientists can date the moon’s craters to understand more about our own.
For the new study, experts tracked the age of the moon’s craters using images and thermal data from Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) space probe.
If a crater gives off more heat, it means it is younger because it is surrounded by larger boulders.
Over millions of years, these boulders break down into fine moon dust that comes up cold on the LRO’s heat cameras.
Scientists studied craters formed in the past billion years, and found there were fewer before 290 million years ago.
In fact, the rate of crater formation since then has been two to three times higher than in the previous 700 million years.
It’s unclear what caused the jump, but scientists think it may be linked to massive collisions taking place in the asteroid belt before 290 million years ago.
This could have created a mass of debris that has since rained down on other parts of the solar system.
The team say asteroid strikes probably played a massive role in Earth’s big extinction events, including the destruction of the dinosaurs.
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