Large airbursts, the most frequent hazardous impact events, are estimated to occur orders of magnitude more frequently than crater-forming impacts. However, finding traces of these events is impeded by the difficulty of identifying them in the recent geological record. Here, we describe condensation spherules found on top of Walnumfjellet in the Sør Rondane Mountains, Antarctica. Affinities with similar spherules found in EPICA Dome C and Dome Fuji ice cores suggest that these particles were produced during a single-asteroid impact ca. 430 thousand years (ka) ago. The lack of a confirmed crater on the Antarctic ice sheet and geochemical and 18O-poor oxygen isotope signatures allow us to hypothesize that the impact particles result from a touchdown event, in which a projectile vapor jet interacts with the Antarctic ice sheet. Numerical models support a touchdown scenario. This study has implications for the identification and inventory of large cosmic events on Earth.
Van Ginneken, M., Goderis, S., Artemieva, N., Debaille, V., Decrée, S., Harvey, R. P., … Claeys, P. (2021). A large meteoritic event over Antarctica ca. 430 ka ago inferred from chondritic spherules from the Sør Rondane Mountains. Science Advances, 7(14). https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abc1008