A meteor impact in Nicaragua and a close flyby of an asteroid demonstrate the fragility of the current civilization.
Many scientists say they believe that an impact from space about 13,000 years ago wiped out large animals and even the existing human population in North America south to what today is Costa Rica.
Current research raises suspicion that the meteor impact was in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada where an underwater crater has been dated to about 12,900 years ago.
A news story Monday said that a new study and an international group of scientists have focused on the character and distribution of nanodiamonds, one type of material produced during such an extraterrestrial collision. The researchers found an abundance of these tiny diamonds distributed over 50 million square kilometers across the Northern Hemisphere, including Costa Rica. This thin, carbon-rich layer is often visible as a thin black line a few meters below the surface, it said.
The only similar layer is one dated to 65 million years ago at the time dinosaurs were exterminated. An impact at the eastern end of the Yucatan peninsula has been blamed for that.
Investigators from 21 universities in six countries researched nanodiamonds at 32 sites in 11 countries across North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Their hypothesis suggests that a cosmic-impact event precipitated the Younger Dryas period of global cooling close to 12,800 years ago. This cosmic impact caused abrupt environmental stress and degradation that contributed to the extinction of most large animal species then inhabiting the Americas, the news story said.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration predicted that the small asteroid, designated 2014 RC, would safely pass very close to Earth. In fact, it did at 12:18 p.m Costa Rica time Sunday.
More than 13 hours earlier, at 11:04 p.m., Residents in the Managua, Nicaragua, area heard the small meteorite there breaking the sound barrier just before crashing into a rural area. At daybreak officials quickly located the 12-meter, 39-foot crater.
So far, earth’s military have not developed techniques to deflect or destroy asteroids that are a threat.
The theory that a meteor impact resulted in the death of the large animals that inhabited the Americas 13,000 years ago is not accepted universally. Some say the decline of creatures like mammoths began years earlier. Others blame massive extinctions on disease or even a volcanic eruption. Some say humans killed them off.
Regardless of the cause, Costa Rica 13,000 years ago would not have been a good tourist location. By that time giant armadillos, glyptodonts, would have moved up from South
3,000-pound toxodons, rhino-like critters, mingled with equus, the American horse now extinct. Remains of both animals have been found associated with artifacts from humans suggesting that they were hunted and eaten. Mixotoxodons, similar to but heavier than toxodons also thrived here. The remains of one was found in Bajo de los Barrantes, Alajuela in 1939.
Mastodons and mammoth shared the grassland, perhaps in what now is the gulf of Nicoya, with their cousins the gomphotherium and cuvieronius. All were elephant-like. Remains of gomphotherium showed up in San Gerardo de Lemoncito and Santa Rita. Researchers found cuvieronius in Agua Caliente, at Gayiabo de Mora, on Paso Colón, at Hacienta el Silencio, along the Río María Aguila in San José, at two locations in Tibás, at five locations on the Nicoya peninsula, at Santa Ana and in Santo Domingo de Heredia.
Mammoth remains were found in Hacienda el Silencio in central Costa Rica.
An impressive creature from that time is megatherium, the six-ton giant ground sloth. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica has a life-sized statue of this giant creature on display.