What Happened the Day a Giant, Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Hit the Earth

What Happened the Day a Giant, Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Hit the Earth

Their article titled "The first day of the Cenozoic" supports the theory that the impact of the asteroid vaporised those rocks and released their gases into the atmosphere, wreaking havoc on the Earth's climate by reflecting sunlight away from the planet and causing cooling on a global scale. Initially, the site of the impact was shallow ocean, less than 30 metres deep.

For their study, the researchers led by Professor Sean Gulick of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to visit the Chicxulub crater, which was the ground zero for the planet-killer asteroid. "In this case, you instantly made a hole with the impact and buried it with all these dynamic processes", Guelick said.

Commenting on the findings, Jay Melosh, from Purdue University and who was not involved in the study, said this research helps expand our understanding of what happened when the asteroid hit.

A large team of researchers collected the cylindrical rock samples from hundreds of feet below the seafloor and analysed them as part of a mission with the International Ocean Discovery Program, an organisation that funds various seafloor research projects.

That sulphur, scientists believe, was the real killer - possibly exacerbated by later volcanic activity thought to have been triggered by the impact.

When they examined a portion of the drilled cores from the rocks that filled the crater left by the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. 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. The data suggests that on impact, the rocks flew out, creating a ring protrusion around the crater. Within charcoal samples were indicators of soil fungi present in sand, suggesting the charcoal was pushed into the crater by receding tsunami waters. "The complication with relating individual deposits in the core to specific types of events is that clearly the crater wasn't a static environment after formation", Witts says, meaning that earthquakes, waves and other events have altered the rock record over the course of 66 million years.

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Based on the core samples (see below), the team estimates the impactor hit with the force of 10 billion Hiroshima atomic bombs.

The impact caused wildfires, tsunamis and put so much sulphur into the atmosphere that it blocked the sun.

According to the researchers' calculations, somewhere around 325 billion metric tons of sulphur would have been ejected by the impact. "We fried them and then we froze them".

"Not all the dinosaurs died that day, but many dinosaurs did", Gulick said. "This is the most eventful day, nearly in the history of the planet".

The impact affected life far from the site. If you were elsewhere on Earth the first effect might well be the quake energy arriving through the ground from the impact or perhaps the arrival of ejecta from the crater raining down and causing heating and wildfires.

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