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Asteroid strikes and boiling oceans: Here's what Earth looked like 4 billion years ago

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Jul 31, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

We lowly humans get only a fleeting glance at the Earth’s evolution, but a new research project aims to show exactly how our planet looked 4 billion years ago. Basically? Hell on Earth.

In an effort to illustrate how our celestial home looked in the early days, Simone Marchi has put together a new research effort for Nature focusing on the Hadean and Eoarchean epochs. The video above shows what the Earth would’ve looked like approximately 4 billion years ago, with oceans frequently boiled into the atmosphere as asteroids constantly pounded the planet’s surface until the crust solidified.

As the full report notes, the project sought to illustrate “land masses, mountain ranges, and seas shaped by impact cratering events, some of which significantly heated portions of the surface.”

Here’s an excerpt from Marchi’s findings, via Sploid, where they sum up their findings:

We find that the surface of the Hadean Earth was widely reprocessed by impacts through mixing and burial by impact-generated melt. This model may explain the age distribution of Hadean zircons and the absence of early terrestrial rocks. Existing oceans would have repeatedly boiled away into steam atmospheres as a result of large collisions as late as about 4 billion years ago.

That’s gorgeous, but it definitely does not look very habitable. Good thing we didn’t pop up for another few billion years.

(Via Sploid, Nature)