The Yucatan Asteroid Explosion
The crater, now buried under more than a half a mile (one kilometer) of limestone deposits, was blasted out by the impact of either a meteorite or comet perhaps 10 miles (16 kilometers) across. Scientists think its size and timing make it the smoking gun that would explain the extinction of the dinosaurs - as well as 70 percent of all species living at the end of the cretaceous period.
|Quote, "The impact was the equivalent
of so many nuclear bombs itís incomprehensible," said
Virgil Sharpton, one of two lead scientists on the project.
S will study core samples from the impact area to get a better understanding of how the Earth responded to the impact, both physically and chemically. A second goal will focus on life on Earth at the time, and how long it took it to recover.
Scientists theorize that the object cast an enormous of amount of debris into the atmosphere, creating nuclear winter-type conditions which lasted for years, prompting mass extinction.
The Chicxulub crater is thought to coincide with the boundary between the cretaceous and tertiary periods in geologic time. When looking at the physical boundary in the geologic record, a thin, iridium-rich layer of clay separates the two, according to research first published in the journal Science by Luis Alvarez in 1980. The unusually high levels of iridium point to an extra-terrestrial source, such as an asteroid, for the element.
Chicxulub had been known of since the 1950s, However, it was not widely connected to the extinction event until earlier this decade.
Some now think whatever created Chicxulub was the largest object to strike Earth in the last billion years. Other craters found in our solar system that have a similar size and structure include the Mead crater on the planet Venus.