Scientists To Drill At Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Crater Site

Posted: Mar 7 2016, 12:03am CST | by , Updated: Mar 7 2016, 6:07pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists to Drill at Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Crater Site
Artist's impression of Chicxulub crater soon after impact, 66 million years ago. Credit: DETLEV VAN

The site may hold clues about what happened after a giant asteroid hit the Earth 66 million years ago and how life bounced back after the catastrophe.

66 million years ago, a giant asteroid smashed into the Earth and killed off all the dinosaurs along with most other earthly life, leaving only a massive crater as evidence to that catastrophic event. 

Chicxulub crater is the spot where the asteroid struck millions of years ago. The crater is located in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and contains the remnants of asteroid. 

Scientists always wanted to know what exactly happened after the giant asteroid hit the Earth. How life bounced back after the mass extinction and whether the crater itself spawned novel microbial life? 

Now, researchers are planning to drill into the impact crater to find the answers of these questions. 

“Chicxulub is the only preserved structure with an intact peak ring that we can get to,” said geophysicist Sean Gulick from University of Texas. “All the other ones are either on another planet, or they've been eroded.”

The team of researchers will start drilling in April. They will try to dig down as much as 1500 meters to extract core samples lying deep in the crater. Then, look for the changes in rock types and other fossils to work out the devastating impact.

Chicxulub crater was discovered in late 1970s. It is measured more than 180 kilometers in diameter and 20 kilometers in depth, making it the third largest confirmed impact crater. 

Scientists are aiming to analyze different layers of Earth inside the impact area. Just above the crater lies a 100 meters or more thick layer where scientists are expecting to find chunks of bedrock blasted up by the impact. Above that would be sediments and hardened deposits of ash.

The crater down to 800 meters is expected to have fewer species of shell producing animals that make up the limestone because life was just recovering from the impact.

Researchers are most interested in peak ring. Peak rings are found in large numbers on Moon and planets like Mars and Mercury. But on Earth, they are very rare, in fact, there are only three peak rings including Chicxulub’s ring. 

The peak ring may have also hosted the life. The peak ring is fractured in some places. These fractures were filled with hot fluids after the impact and could be preferred spots for microbes to grow.

"We have some hypothesis of what we will find. We expect to see a period of no life initially, and then life returning and getting more diverse through time." Gulick told CNN.

Certain events can have a long-lasting impact on the structure of Earth and the life existing on it. Understanding what happened during the Chicxulub impact can help researchers predict what may happen in the future if another massive asteroid collides with our planet and how can we protect our planet from this impact.


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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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