Scientists Find Proof Of Massive Killer Asteroid That Killed Dinosaurs

Katie Ramirez
September 11, 2019

Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid blast the equivalent of 10 billion World War II atomic bombs set off wildfires, triggered tsunamis, and emitted enough sulfur into the atmosphere to block out the Sun.

First, the impact site was a fiery hellscape.

An worldwide team of scientists led by the University of Texas at Austin examined hundreds of feet of rocks that filled the Chicxulub impact crater within the first 24 hours after impact.

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.

"If you were on Earth and within 1500 kilometers (930 miles) of the impact your view would have been very short as the asteroid comes in at 20 kilometers per second and hence a blink of the eye", Gulick told Newsweek.

Using a core sample collected in 2016, University of Texas at Austin geologist Sean Gulick and a team of dozens of other researchers have further pieced together the story of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction.

Artist impression of the asteroid that is thought to have killed off the dinosaurs.

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.

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By analysing the rocks, they found evidence that a resurging ocean and tsunami swept material back into the crater formed by the asteroid.

Within tens of minutes of the strike, the ring of rock around the impact point was smothered in about 40 meters of melted rock. The blast ignited trees thousands of miles away, and the tsunami reached as far inland as present-day IL. Within hours, ocean waters flooded the crater and deposited an estimated 90 meters (295 feet) of rock into its base.

Then, when the tsunami waters receded, they dragged a bunch of material - including dirt (indicated by the presence of biomarkers associated with soil fungus) and charcoal from burnt trees - back into the fresh crater.

He said: 'They fried or froze. This suggests that these rocks were vaporised by the impact, expelling tremendous amounts of sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere, where they blocked the light of the Sun, dramatically cooling Earth's temperatures for years after. "Not all the dinosaurs died that day, but many dinosaurs did".

More research into this core and others will help scientists paint a better picture of the event that snuffed out most of life on Earth.

"The real killer has got to be atmospheric", Gulick said. The impact did cause devastation in the locality of the impact but the global extinction took place due to the climate change caused by the release of massive volumes of sulphur, nearly 325 billion metric tonnes. "The only way you get a global mass extinction like this is an atmospheric effect".

Interestingly, life quickly recovered at the site.

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