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The research indicates numerous kilometer-sized fragments from the giant impact struck main belt asteroids at much higher velocities than typical main belt collisions, heating the surface and leaving behind a permanent record of the impact event.
This image shows a meteorite fragment found after a 17-20 meter asteroid disrupted in the atmosphere near Chelyabinsk, Russia on Feb. The blast wave produced by this event not only caused damage over a wide area but also created a strewn field of stony meteorites like this one. It shows a beautiful contact between impact melt (dark material at top of image) and chondritic host (light material at bottom of image).
Insights into the last stages of planet formation in the inner solar system can be gleaned from these impact signatures.
For example, the team is exploring how they can be used to place new constraints on how many asteroid-like bodies still existed in the inner Solar System in the aftermath of planet formation.
Co-author Swindle, who specializes in finding the times when meteorites or lunar samples were involved in large collisions, said: "Bill Bottke had the idea of looking at the asteroid belt to see what effect a Moon-forming giant impact would have, and realized that you would expect a lot of collisions in the period shortly after that.
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"The importance of giant impact ejecta returning to strike the Moon could also play an intriguing role in the earliest phase of lunar bombardment," said Bottke, who is an alumnus of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
"This research is helping to refine our time scales for 'what happened when' on other worlds in the Solar System." Yvonne Pendleton, Director of the NASA SSERVI Institute, notes: "This is an excellent example of the power of multidisciplinary science.