Around 36 million years ago, an asteroid smashed into what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. New research suggests that, for a brief time, the temperature at the point of impact exceeded 2370C, making it the hottest temperature known to have occurred on Earth.
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Four and a half billion years ago, some dust from a cloud orbiting around a star coalesced into a rocky planet. But unlike most of the dusty balls in our solar system, this one was special -- it was just the right distance away from the star that one day after the surface had cooled, water could exist as a liquid, rather than a solid or gas. The planet's surface eventually fractured into plates that shifted around, becoming continents. All that shifting has rubbed away the details of that ancient Earth. Was the era as hellish as its name "Hadean" implies, or was Earth always a water-rich orb with moving plates?