Is Hawaii the Result of a Big Bang?

Does Hawaii, the burning jewel of the North Pacific, have an extraterrestrial origin? It's possible, says Andrew Glikson from the Australian National University. He believes that an asteroid impact may have created the hot spot that supplies Hawaii with its lava. Hot spots, mysterious bubbles of molten rock in Earth's mantle (the semimolten region between Earth's core and crust) seem to spring up out of nowhere to create new landforms. An asteroid impact would solve the mystery of hot spots by giving them a beginning.

Actually, the idea of linking space rocks and lava goes back to at least the 1960s. But recent debates are burning around controversial computer models that show how an asteroid can create a hot spot. Jay Melosh, a crater expert from the University of Arizona, remains doubtful. He says that there is no clear physical evidence of a link between space rocks and lava.

Still, the computer models do come up with ways that an impact could cause, or at least speed up, a volcanic eruption. And those who support the idea are quick to point out one simple fact: Geologists have not come up with a better explanation for how Earth's hot spots got started.

Vocabulary

asteroid:
One of the thousands of small planets that orbit the Sun, mostly in the region between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids range in size from about one mile to several hundred miles in diameter.
extraterrestrial:
Originating, located, or occurring outside Earth or its atmosphere.

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Activity

  1. What event does this article say might have caused hot spots in Hawaii?
    Answer: The article says that asteroids hitting Earth may have caused hot spots in Hawaii.
  2. How might this event produce the hot spots?
    Answer: Answers may vary but could include that if an asteroid hit Earth very hard, it might break through part of the crust and weaken it. The mantle might be able to get through a crack in the crust more easily.
  3. Do you think that the event described in the article is what caused hot spots in Hawaii? Why or why not? Write a sentence or two to explain your answer.
    Answer: Answers will vary. Students may believe that the hot spots were caused by an asteroid because a large asteroid might have a strong enough impact to cause a change in Earth's surface. Students may not believe that the hot spots were caused by an asteroid because the asteroid would have to pass through too much ocean before hitting the crust on the ocean floor. This much ocean might slow down an asteroid so much that when it hits the ocean floor, it is not going fast enough to cause major damage.

Activity

  1. What event does this article say might have caused hot spots in Hawaii?
    Answer: The article says that asteroids hitting Earth may have caused hot spots in Hawaii.
  2. How might this event produce the hot spots?
    Answer: Answers may vary but could include that if an asteroid hit Earth very hard, it might break through part of the crust and weaken it. The mantle might be able to get through a crack in the crust more easily.
  3. Do you think that the event described in the article is what caused hot spots in Hawaii? Why or why not? Write a sentence or two to explain your answer.
    Answer: Answers will vary. Students may believe that the hot spots were caused by an asteroid because a large asteroid might have a strong enough impact to cause a change in Earth's surface. Students may not believe that the hot spots were caused by an asteroid because the asteroid would have to pass through too much ocean before hitting the crust on the ocean floor. This much ocean might slow down an asteroid so much that when it hits the ocean floor, it is not going fast enough to cause major damage.