The Asteroid that killed the Dinosaurs spilled some Water on the Moon

The Asteroid that killed the Dinosaurs spilled some Water on the Moon

Asteroids are a common topic of discussion among scientists around the world, these days. But was an asteroid the reason behind the extinction of dinosaurs?

Yes, it is true. Sun was shining bright and everything was going on smoothly when a mountain-sized asteroid smashed into the coastal areas of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, 66 million years ago. This marked the last day of the Mesozoic era. The speed, before the impact, was estimated to be about 64000 kilometers per hour. Imagine a ball of fire, bigger and brighter than the Sun, thudding into the Earth. This massive explosion produced over 100 trillion tons of TNT. The energy associated with it is a billion times more than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This event signifies the importance of time. If that asteroid had come 30 seconds later, it would have hit somewhere in the middle of Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. In that case, some killer waves would have emerged but the destruction could have been a whole lot less than what it actually caused. It is a common belief that ‘Mass Extinction’ was the result of this impact as dinosaurs were wiped out from the face of this planet.

Similarly, many species of the oceans also became extinct. The impact created a 185-kilometer wide crater known as the ‘Chicxulub’ and the asteroid penetrated quite a long way into the Earth’s crust. The exact details about it are yet to be known because it is buried under a thick layer of sedimentary rocks.

The biggest breakthrough in this regard came in 2016 when a team of scientists was working on an off-shore drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. They managed to get first ever core samples from the ‘peak ring’ of the crater. This ring came into existence due to the reaction of the Earth and the large circular structure was formed within the walls of the crater. The extracted sample has explained the formation of this ring as well as the reason for these rocks to be porous.

A team of geophysicists from Imperial College of London has developed an ‘Impact Calculator’ where users can enter key details like speed and size of the asteroid and it paints a colorful picture of events. Joanna Morgan, the team lead, expressed her views about it and said,

You can plug in different distances from the point of impact to see how the effects change over distance. If you were close by, say within 1,000 kilometers [625 miles], you would be instantaneously, or within a few seconds, killed by the fireball.”

The same team has published a study in the journal ‘Science’ in which they have tried to explain the presence of concentric rings of mountains inside that crater. They used examples from different planets like Venus and Mars to support their claims as Chicxulub is one of its kind on Earth.

Credit: National Geographic

The description of the post-impact effects is horrifying by all means. Trees and grass would have turned into flames immediately and anyone near them would have suffered from third-degree burns. The topography of that part of the Earth means that fire will be followed by oceanic flood. A phenomenal tsunami would have initiated with an earthquake intensity of at least 10.1 on the Richter scale. The waves of water would have spilled anywhere and everywhere. Some people even went on to say that water was spilled from the Earth to the Moon at that time.

After 45 minutes post-impact, 965 kilometers per hour wind will burst through the region. This will fly debris everywhere and will demolish anything that is left. The sound of the explosion could be heard simultaneously which is as deafening as a fighter jet making a low flight (105 decibels). The sky will turn red first due to the burning of shooting stars. Later, it would darken as ash and debris are swirling around the globe.

Scientists are hopeful that this development will help them to know more about the post-impact climatic changes and the origin of life. About this Morgan said,

“The drilling program will help us understand how all this affected the post-impact climate—how much material was ejected into the stratosphere and what that material was.”

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