A new study conducted by researchers from South Africa revealed that an asteroid may have hit Earth 12,800 years ago and caused mass extinctions. The scientists warned that a similar event could happen again if the asteroid Apophis 99942 collides with the planet.

According to the researchers, they found traces of platinum at an area called Wonderkrater in a province in South Africa. They noted that this material is commonly found in asteroids.

They believe that the traces of platinum in South Africa and in other places are related to the massive impact crater found in Greenland. The asteroid that created the crater sent cosmic debris flying to different parts of the world after it hit Earth.

The researchers noted the impact may have occurred about 12,800 years ago during a period known as Younger Dryas. During this time, Earth underwent glacial conditions that slightly reversed the warming effects caused by the last glacial period.

Francis Thackeray of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is the lead author of the study that was published in Wired Science. In the study, he said that their findings support the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, Earth was hit by a massive asteroid during the Younger Dryas, which caused extreme changes to the environment as well as a mass extinction.

“Our finding at least partially supports the highly controversial Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis,” he said in a statement. “We seriously need to explore the view that an asteroid impact somewhere on Earth may have caused climate change on a global scale, and contributed to some extent to the process of extinction of large animals at the end of the Pleistocene, after the last ice age.”

According to Thackeray, this event could happen again if predictions about the 1,210-feet-wide asteroid Apophis 99942 come true. Many scientists believe that gravitational forces in space will influence the asteroid’s path, causing it to end up on a trajectory that will take it straight to Earth. Previous predictions indicated that Apophis 99942 might hit Earth on April 13, 2029.

“The closest encounter will take place precisely on Friday, April 13, 2029,” Thackeray said. “The probability of the Apophis 99942 asteroid hitting us then is only one in 100,000, but the probability of an impact may be even higher at some time in the future, as it comes close to Earth every 10 years.”

Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. NASA