April Holloway | Ancient Origins | December 20, 2013
A new study has suggested that a large fragment of the famous Halley’s comet crashed into Earth in 536 AD causing a ripple effect of damage including dramatic changes in the planet’s climate, leading to widespread drought and famine throughout the world, and making humanity more susceptible to “Justinian’s plague”.
Evidence comes from the analysis of an ice core pulled out from a layer of ice in Greenland dated between 533 and 540 AD. The core contained huge amounts of atmospheric dust, not all of it originating on Earth. The dust had high levels of tin, which is characteristic of a comet. Since it was deposited in the Northern Hemisphere spring, researchers believe it came from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which is associated with Halley’s comet.
But that is not all they found. Within the ice core were also tiny tropical marine organisms, suggesting that the comet fragment landed in tropical ocean and blasted the organisms all the way to Greenland. A study back in 2004 had shown that a piece of comet 600 metres wide could cause a big enough impact to create the level of cooling which is known to have taken place between 536 and 537 AD.
It is believed that the planet cooled by as much as 3 degrees Celsius. Recorded observations of Halley’s comet go way back, with research suggesting the ancient Greeks saw the comet streaking across their skies as early as 466 BC.
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