Scientists Reconstruct What Happened The Day The Dinosaurs Died

The Liftboat Myrtle. Image Credit University of Texas

Scientists explain that the asteroid sparked wildfires, triggered tsunamis and launched sulfur into the atmosphere, blocking out the sun. Initially, the site of the impact was shallow ocean, less than 30 metres deep.

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have found "hard evidence" of the asteroid that killed off dinosaurs.

Lead Australian researcher John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice, from the WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC) in Curtin's School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the team drilled into the crater in order to retrieve rocks from 500m to 1300m below the seafloor, finding evidence of the events of the days after impact.

"It tells us about impact processes from an eyewitness location", he said.

Now, a large team of scientists led by eggheads at the University of Texas, Austin, in the USA reckon they have uncovered the rubble that rushed in to pack the gaping hole after the asteroid struck.

Scientists have thrown light on the day when a giant asteroid smashed into our planet - unleashing a bad firestorm which blotted out the sun, and killed the dinoaurs. It then created a massive heat pulse that raised temperatures in regions over 900 miles away from the impact zone. Known as the Chicxulub crater, it's located in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The area surrounding the impact crater is full of sulfur-rich rocks.

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. Inside the crater, researchers found charcoal and a chemical biomarker associated with soil fungi within or just above layers of sand that shows signs of being deposited by resurging 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.

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. "We fried them and then we froze them".

'Not all the dinosaurs died that day - but many dinosaurs did'. The research paper is titled, 'The First Day of Cenozoic' and as the name suggests, it explores everything that happened one day after the impact event which started the Cenozoic period. The mass extinction event was the result of an impact event by an asteroid that created the 180 kilometre wide Chicxulub crater in Gulf of Mexico. This may be explained by the asteroid's ability to vaporize any minerals that might have held sulfur, thereby releasing an estimated 225 billion metric tons of sulfur into the atmosphere.

Interestingly, life quickly recovered at the site.

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