Research

Scientists Uncover New Evidence of Asteroid That Killed Dinosaurs

Scientists Uncover New Evidence of Asteroid That Killed Dinosaurs

For years scientists have blamed an asteroid for wiping out the dinosaurs, setting off wildfires and tsunamis and sending so much sulfur into the atmosphere that sunlight was obstructed upon impact.

First, the impact site was a fiery hellscape.

The study builds on previous research that explains how the crater was formed and validates the notion that the asteroid's impact caused the planet's surface to behave like a fluid, creating the mountains and hills that surround the crater from rocks that came from deep within the Earth's crust.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on September 9 and builds on earlier work co-led and led by the Jackson School that described how the crater formed and how life quickly recovered at the impact site. "We interpret this section to represent the first day post impact, which by the definition of the geologic time scale, makes it the first day of the Cenozoic since the Cretaceous ended the moment the asteroid struck", Gulick says.

We have a better idea today thanks to the International Ocean Discovery Program, which collected a pristine sample from the impact site.

While everyone knows an asteroid killed Earth's dinosaurs, how exactly it achieved this has remained the subject of some debate.

By studying a core sample from the peak ring of the 93-mile-wide Chicxulub crater-ground zero of the impact-a team of scientists has been able to reconstruct the immediate aftermath of the impact. This showed how the blast ignited trees and plants thousands of miles away from the impact zone, and triggered a far-reaching inland tsunami across the Americas.

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The sea battered against the new hole in the planet, and in the minutes and hours that followed, surges of water rushing back into the crater carried laid down more than 260 additional feet of melted stone atop the already accumulated rock.

"We fried them and then we froze them", he said in a statement. But he pointed out that this is just one paper about one core. "Not all the dinosaurs died that day, but many dinosaurs did".

The charcoal, granite and other sediments revealed details of how the impact unleashed huge tsunamis and wildfires across the planet - along with a cloud of sulphur which blotted out the sun.

"It was a momentous day in the history of life, and this is a very clear documentation of what happened at ground zero", said Melosh, who was not involved with this study.

The impact blasted so much sulphur into the atmosphere it blocked out the sun, say the British and USA led team.

Most curiously, however, no sulfur was found in the crater, meaning an estimated 325 billion tons of the element were launched into the atmosphere, destroying Earth's climate in the process and blocking out the sun for a prolonged period.

The impact affected life far from the site. A mass extinction would require planetwide catastrophe, and a quick addition of sulphur and other molecules to the atmosphere could have caused global cooling and darkness.


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