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Scientists Drill into Crater to Learn About History
How the Dinosaurs Vanished

January 2, 2018

A team of scientists led by S. Gulick from the University of Texas at Austin and J. Morgan from Imperial College London, along with more than 30 researchers representing 12 countries, drilled into a crater in the Gulf of Mexico which supposedly was formed by the impact of an asteroid 66 million years ago.  A 7-mile wide asteroid traveling 40,000 mph toward Earth plummeted into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, and ended the era of the dinosaurs.

The research project is a topic of a recent NOVA program which aired December 27, 2017 called “The Day the Dinosaurs Died”.

The aftermath caused a 115 mile-wide crater called the Chicxulub Crater, and the first-ever core samples were obtained from what is called the “peak ring” which is where the Earth rebounded seconds after impact.  The peak ring was formed as inward-collapsing material impacted an over-steepened central peak.  The crater is named after the small nearby town of Chicxulub.  Chicxulub is the only crater on Earth with an intact peak ring that we can go sample, the next intact peak ring would be on the moon said Gulick.


66 million years ago an asteroid hurtles toward the Gulf of Mexico to form the Chicxulub Crater.

An off-shore drilling platform was utilized to go through 60 feet of water and then some 2,000 feet of limestone to collect samples in 10-foot long cylindrical sections.  The findings support a theory of a dynamic collapse model which implies that the asteroid impact was so powerful that it shook the rocks deep in the Earth’s crust causing them to shoot up before collapsing down onto the surface to make the peak rings.  The analysis of the sediments of the core samples revealed that the peak rings were made of granite.  Granite is usually found much deeper within the Earth’s crust.  This means the impact of the asteroid was so strong that it lifted sediment from the basement of the Earth’s crust several miles up to its surface.

The apocalyptic tale from an impact theory of a giant asteroid wiping out 80 percent of life on Earth was introduced in 1980, debunking any theory of an ice-age destroying the dinosaurs.  The impact caused an explosion equivalent to over 100 trillion tons of TNT, vaporizing thousand of cubic miles of rock.  Yet it is puzzling how the fallout of this asteroid event killed off so much life over the entire world.  Within 600 miles of the impact, you would be instantaneously killed by the fireball.  If you were near enough to see it, you were dead.  Nine seconds after impact, an observer would be roasted by a blast of thermal radiation, and trees, grass, and shrubs would spontaneously burst into flames.

Then comes the flood.  The impact kicked up a tremendous tsunami up to 1000 feet high. The subsequent earthquake was more powerful than anything ever experienced during man’s reign, at least a 10.0 on the Richter scale.

After 8 minutes, ejecta spilled down smothering the burning landscape and burying the ground beneath thousands of feet of rubble.  At 45 minutes, a 600 mph wind leveled anything that might still be standing.  The sound caused a deafening 105-decibel roar.

Farther distant from the direct explosion, an observer would see a spectacle of darkening skies and shooting stars created by impact debris raining down on Earth.  According to NOVA, these were not ordinary shooting stars but lower altitude spherical pellets the size of a grain of sand emitting infrared radiation.  After a red glow, the sky would darken from the swirling ash and debris all about the globe, causing a type of eerie twilight.  There would be total darkness for the first few hours, then lightening to a very cloudy atmosphere for the next months or even years.

The dimming of the atmosphere caused by the dust and debris significantly reduced photosynthesis, and the soot and ash take months to clean out of the air.  Afterwards, the rain falls as acidic mud, and the ozone layer destroyed by the toxins of massive fires.  An estimated 10,000 billion tons of carbon dioxide, 100 billion tons of carbon monoxide, and 100 billion tons of methane were released all at once.  The aftermath of the asteroid was described as “a powerful one-two punch of nuclear winter followed by dramatic global warming.” (R. Smith, National Geographic, June 11, 2016).

The asteroid event knocked-out a swoon of dinosaurs and mammals, but not completely. We are still host to some very large mammals such as the elephant (resembling the prehistoric mastodon) and still subject to the ferocity of reptilian predators such as the crocodile and alligator which are both considered living dinosaurs.  Another species that most likely escaped the deadly apocalypse were the avians, or the bird family.  The exotic features of some of today’s birds are a clue that they survived the 66 million-year-ago extinction, also making them likely candidates to what are left of the remaining dinosaurs.


Comparison of a brachiosaurus to a blue whale and to a jumbo jet.  The relative size of an
elephant is shown next to the dinosaur as well as a silhouette of a human.

But why were there such huge dinosaurs, and what were they for ?

But why were there such huge dinosaurs, and what were they for ?  Why wasn’t the early Earth comprised of just plants and flora and then the gradual introduction of man and animals, for instance ?  Why such a demonstration of immense creatures and then a dramatic end to it ?

These are very good questions.  Nobody has really nailed the “whys and what fors” to our very early history, resorting to reasons that are mostly “esoteric”.  Some think it is all to “make us wonder”.  Some say “it has never been a dull moment.”

Yet it is puzzling how the fallout of this asteroid event killed off so much life over the entire world.