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charcoal

BURNING UP  Bits of microscopic charcoal such as this were found along the U.S. Atlantic coast and imaged by an electron microscope. The presence of charcoal supports the idea that a large space rock hit Earth around 56 million years ago near the start of a bout of rapid warming, triggering wildfires.

illustration of ancient earth

DIM SUN  Scarce oxygen and abundant sulfate prevented methane concentrations from getting high enough to explain why Earth didn’t freeze over around 1.8 billion to 800 million years ago when the sun was dimmer, researchers say.

images of plastic, nuclear tests, chickens

END OF AN EPOCH  Plastics, radioactive fallout and the prevalence of domestic animals such as chickens — signs of which show up in the sedimentary record — have made the last few decades distinct in the planet’s stratigraphic record, a group of researchers say.

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