Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A late Miocene dust shower from the break-up of an asteroid in the main belt

Abstract

Throughout the history of the Solar System, Earth has been bombarded by interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), which are asteroid and comet fragments of diameter 1–1,000 µm. The IDP flux is believed to be in quasi-steady state: particles created by episodic main belt collisions or cometary fragmentation replace those removed by comminution, dynamical ejection, and planetary or solar impact. Because IDPs are rich in 3He, seafloor sediment 3He concentrations provide a unique means of probing the major events that have affected the IDP flux and its source bodies over geological timescales1,2,3,4. Here we report that collisional disruption of the >150-km-diameter asteroid that created the Veritas family 8.3 ± 0.5 Myr ago5 also produced a transient increase in the flux of interplanetary dust-derived 3He. The increase began at 8.2 ± 0.1 Myr ago, reached a maximum of 4 times pre-event levels, and dissipated over 1.5 Myr. The terrestrial IDP accretion rate was overwhelmingly dominated by Veritas family fragments during the late Miocene. No other event of this magnitude over the past 108 yr has been deduced from main belt asteroid orbits. One remarkably similar event is present in the 3He record 35 Myr ago, but its origin by comet shower1 or asteroid collision6 remains uncertain.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Two periods of elevated 3 He flux, at 35 Myr ago (late Eocene) and 8 Myr ago (late Miocene), indicate intervals of enhanced accumulation rate of IDPs.
Figure 2: Concordant 3 He data from two widely separated seafloor sites support a global increase in IDP flux at 8.2 Myr ago that can be attributed to the asteroid collision that produced the Veritas family.

References

  1. Farley, K. A., Montanari, A., Shoemaker, E. M. & Shoemaker, C. S. Geochemical evidence for a comet shower in the Late Eocene. Science 280, 1250–1253 (1998)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. Takayanagi, M. & Ozima, M. Temporal variation of 3He/4He in deep-sea sediment cores. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 12531–12538 (1987)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Farley, K. A. Cenozoic variations in the flux of interplanetary dust recorded by 3He in a deep-sea sediment. Nature 376, 153–156 (1995)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Kortenkamp, S. & Dermott, S. A 100,000-year periodicity in the accretion rate of interplanetary dust. Science 280, 874–876 (1998)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Nesvorný, D., Bottke, W. F., Levison, H. F. & Dones, L. Recent origin of the solar system dust bands. Astrophys. J. 591, 486–497 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Tagle, R. & Claeys, P. Comet or asteroid shower in the late Eocene? Science 305, 492 (2004)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Burns, J. A., Lamy, P. L. & Soter, S. Radiation forces on small particles in the Solar-System. Icarus 40, 1–48 (1979)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Farley, K. A., Love, S. G. & Patterson, D. B. Atmospheric entry heating and helium retentivity of interplanetary dust particles. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 61, 2309–2316 (1997)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Patterson, D. B. & Farley, K. A. Extraterrestrial He-3 in seafloor sediments: Evidence for correlated 100 kyr periodicity in the accretion rate of interplanetary dust, orbital parameters, and Quaternary climate. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 62, 3669–3682 (1998)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Mukhopadhyay, S., Farley, K. & Montanari, A. A 35 Myr record of helium in pelagic limestones: implications for interplanetary dust accretion from the early Maastrichtian to the Middle Eocene. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 65, 653–669 (2001)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Shackleton, N. J., Curry, W. B., Richter, C. & Bralower, T. J. Ceara Rise. Proc. ODP Sci. Res. 154, 1–552 (1997)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bottke, W. F. et al. The fossilized size distribution of the main asteroid belt. Icarus 175, 111–140 (2005)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. Low, F. J. et al. Infrared cirrus—new components of the extended infrared-emission. Astrophys. J. 278, L19–L22 (1984)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Dermott, S. F., et al. in Interplanetary Dust (eds Grün, E., Gustafson, B. A. S., Dermott, S. F. & Fechtig, H.) 569–639 (Springer, Berlin, 2001)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  15. Nesvorný, D., Vokrouhlický, D., Bottke, W. F. & Sykes, M. Physical properties of asteroid dust bands and their sources. Icarus (submitted)

  16. Morbidelli, A. & Nesvorný, D. Numerous weak resonances drive asteroids toward terrestrial planet orbits. Icarus 139, 295–308 (1999)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. Gladman, B. J. et al. Dynamical lifetimes of objects injected into asteroid belt resonances. Science 277, 197–201 (1997)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. Bottke, W. F. et al. Debiased orbital and absolute magnitude distribution of the near-earth objects. Icarus 156, 399–433 (2002)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. Grün, E., Zook, H. A., Fechtig, H. & Giese, R. H. Collisional balance of the meteoritic complex. Icarus 62, 244–272 (1985)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  20. Nolan, M. C. & Greenberg, R. Stochastic-evolution of asteroids to produce the ordinary chondrites. Meteoritics 24, 310 (1989)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  21. Bottke, W. F. et al. in Dynamics of Populations of Planetary Systems (eds Knezevic, Z. & Milani, A.) 357–376 (IAU Colloquium 197, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005)

    Google Scholar 

  22. Graf, T. & Marti, K. Collisional history of H chondrites. J. Geophys. Res. 100, 21247–21263 (1995)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Burbine, T. H., McCoy, T. J., Meibom, A., Gladman, B. & Keil, K. in Asteroids III (eds Bottke, W. F., Cellino, A., Paolicchi, P. & Binzel, R. P.) 653–667 (Univ. Arizona Press, Tucson, 2002)

    Google Scholar 

  24. Bogard, D. D. Impact ages of meteorites—A synthesis. Meteoritics 30, 244–268 (1995)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  25. Muller, R. A. & MacDonald, G. J. Glacial cycles and astronomical forcing. Science 277, 215–218 (1997)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  26. Marcantonio, F. et al. Extraterrestrial 3He as a tracer of marine sediment transport and accumulation. Nature 383, 705–707 (1996)

    CAS  Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  27. Gupta, A. K., Singh, R. K., Joseph, S. & Thomas, E. Indian Ocean high-productivity event (10–8 Ma): Linked to global cooling or to the initiation of the Indian monsoons? Geology 32, 753–756 (2004)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. Curry, W. B., et al. ODP Init. Rep. Leg 154 1–1111, (1995)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Financial support for this project was provided by NASA's Planetary Geology & Geophysics program (W.F.B., D.N. and K.A.F.). Financial and travel support for D.V. was provided by the Czech Republic grant agency and NSF's COBASE program. We also thank D. Durda, A. Morbidelli, M. Sykes and S. Mukhopadhyay for several discussions, and S. Goldstein and J. Burns for comments and suggestions.Author Contributions K.A.F. measured 3He in the seafloor sediments. D.N. determined the age of the Veritas family using numerical integration methods. D.V., W.F.B. and D.N. constructed the Monte Carlo dust evolution code and analysed the results.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kenneth A. Farley.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Notes

This file contains detailed information on samples, methods, and age models, and tabulates and plots the complete He data set. It also presents details on the IDP production model following Veritas collision and a plot showing the time constraints on the Veritas collision based on orbital backtracking. Brief discussions of other asteroid break-up events and on possible relationships between the Late Miocene and Late Eocene 3He events are also given. (PDF 1147 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Farley, K., Vokrouhlický, D., Bottke, W. et al. A late Miocene dust shower from the break-up of an asteroid in the main belt. Nature 439, 295–297 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04391

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04391

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing