Research suggests that the Ice Ages were caused by Interstellar Space Clouds

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The Pleistocene Epoch—with its glaciers, woolly mammoths, and Neanderthals—still looms large in Earth’s rearview mirror, having ended a mere 12,000 years ago.
The Pleistocene began about 2.6 million years ago.
Outside of the heliosphere, the Earth would’ve been exposed to iron and plutonium in the interstellar medium, the team posited.
The heliosphere could’ve been blocked out for anywhere from just a couple hundred years to one million years, Opher said in a Boston University release.
The moment Earth and the other planets moved away from the cloud, the heliosphere returned.
They are trying to create a digital twin—basically, a high-tech model—of the heliosphere to better model the sorts of conditions our solar system may have been subject to.
According to the Utah Geological Survey, at least five major ice ages have occurred on Earth.
The first occurred over 2 billion years ago and the most recent began around 3 million years ago.

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Even though it ended only 12,000 years ago, the Pleistocene Epoch—with its glaciers, woolly mammoths, and Neanderthals—remains a prominent feature in the past. According to a team of researchers, Earth may have been cold for several hundred thousand years during that period of time because of a cloud in space that momentarily cut off Earth from the warmth of the Sun.

According to the research, the Earth and other planets were momentarily outside of the Sun’s heliosphere—the bubble of charged particles from our host star that currently envelops the system—due to interference with the solar system approximately two million years ago. Today, Nature Astronomy published the results of their research.

Lead author of the study and Boston University astronomer Merav Opher emailed Gizmodo, saying, “This paper is the first to quantitatively show there was an encounter between the sun and something outside of the solar system that would have affected Earth’s climate.”. The team is “still trying to quantify it with modern climate models,” according to Opher, but “Earth would have entered in an Ice Age” if hydrogen and dust levels had increased. “.

Using HI4PI survey data as a model, Opher’s group discovered that between 2 and 3 million years ago, our solar system might have passed through the Local Ribbon of Cold Clouds in the constellation Lynx. About 2.6 million years ago, the Pleistocene began. The release stated that while it is impossible to determine with certainty whether such frigid clouds could have sparked an ice age, further proof of clouds interfering with the heliosphere could shed light on the potential effects on Earth.

According to the team’s model, the heliosphere encircling Earth and its nearby planets would contract to a size of roughly 0 point22 astronomical units, or less than a quarter of Earth’s distance from the Sun, during such a passage. In comparison, the ESA calculates that the heliosphere’s current closest boundary is located approximately 100 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, which is roughly twice the distance of the Kuiper Belt.

Iron and plutonium would have been present in the interstellar medium outside of the heliosphere, the team proposed. According to their timeline, there has been a rise in the amounts of iron-60 and plutonium-244, two isotopes of the respective element that have been found in Antarctic snow, deep-sea sediments, samples from the Moon, and space events. Furthermore, as Opher noted, Mars samples might show a comparable iron isotope spike between two and three million years ago if they were examined in the same manner as lunar and terrestrial samples.

Opher stated in a Boston University release that the heliosphere may have been obscured for a few hundred years or a million years. The heliosphere reformed as soon as Earth and the other planets left the cloud.

The team is currently attempting to determine the Sun’s location approximately seven million years ago, as there is evidence for a second peak in the ratios of plutonium-244 and iron-60 in earthly ice and sediments, in order to validate their findings. In an attempt to better simulate the kinds of conditions our solar system might have experienced in the past, scientists are attempting to construct a digital twin—basically, a high-tech model—of the heliosphere. Finally, more information from the Gaia mission of ESA may aid in pinpointing the precise location of the Sun at that point in the distant past.

The Utah Geological Survey estimates that Earth has gone through at least five significant ice ages. Two billion years ago was the date of the first, and three million years ago was the start of the most current. The composition of the atmosphere, variations in ocean currents, shifts in Earth’s orbit, low solar energy, and even volcanoes—which caused the year without a summer—can all cause ice ages to begin, according to NASA. To put it another way, we don’t need theories to explain Earth’s numerous cold periods, and it’s unclear exactly how Earth’s position outside of the heliosphere may have sparked one.

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