London: A giant asteroid that struck Australia more than 300 million years ago changed the face of the Earth forever, a new study has claimed.
The six-mile diameter asteroid left an impact zone more than 120 miles wide - the third largest such site on the planet - and likely led to mass extinctions worldwide, the Daily Mail reported.
"The dust and greenhouse gases released from the crater, the seismic shock and the initial fireball would have incinerated large parts of the Earth," Andrew Glikson, visiting fellow at the Australian National University said.
Evidence of the ancient catastrophe was only discovered after another researcher alerted Dr Glikson to unusual mineral deposits in the East Warburton Basin in South Australia.
As the ages have passed, the mammoth impact zone has been buried beneath nearly 2.5 miles of earth.
To identify it Dr Glikson and his colleagues analysed quartz grains drawn from the site and studied underground seismic and magnetic anomalies.
The strike may have been part of an asteroid impact cluster which caused an era of mass extinction, wiping out primitive coral reefs and other species, Dr Glikson said.
However, he added, the impact happened well before the time of the dinosaurs.
"It`s significant because it`s so large. It`s the third largest impact terrain anywhere on Earth found to date," he told Australian science news site The Conversation.
He said that it`s likely to be part of a particular cluster that was linked with a mass extinction event at that time.
He said that there was a chance that the incoming asteroid actually split in two as it made its fiery descent through the Earth`s atmosphere.
Dr Simon O`Toole, research astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, told The Conversation that the find offered fresh evidence of the links between asteroid impacts and mass extinctions.