Scientists have long accepted that an asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago with the extinction of dinosaurs.
But there are many theories about what, of course, happened to our planet and its ancient inhabitants after the impact. Some explanations for the extinction of dinosaurs blamed clouds of debris and soot that blasted the sun and cooled the planet, while others said it was not the faintest gases from worldwide volcanic eruptions , or even a great plague.
According to a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, global cooling is the culprit. In effect, the research found, the Chicxulub asteroid ̵
Dinosaurs fried and then frozen, Sean Gulick, the study's lead author, said in a press release.
Examines the crater of Chicxulub
To better understand the fate of that deadly day in the history of our planet, scientists behind the new study have conducted an in-depth examination of the accuracy of Chicxulub's impact – a difficult prospect, given that the crater extends 12 miles to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.
Gulick and his colleague Joanna Morgan collected rock samples there in 2016, from a section of the crater where rocks and debris were deposited after the asteroid impact. No stones from that area have been recovered before.
Gulick and Morgan then spent the next three years studying the samples to geologically reconstruct a timeline of what happened after the impact.
"This is an expanded record of the events we have been able to recover from within ground zero," Gulick said .
The asteroid hit by the force of 10 billion atomic bombs
Here's what their timeline shows:
Within a minute of impact, the asteroid was hit by a hole nearly 100 miles away. wide in the sea, creating a swollen pit of molten rock and extremely hot gas. The contents of the burning pot are skyrocketed, creating a high mountain plume.
The plume collapsed within minutes and was fortified with slippery lava tops and rocky material. These peaks were then covered with rocks, traces of burning soil, and soot carried by ocean waves.
The presence of charcoal, researchers say, is proof that wildfires were ignored after the impact; some of the fires probably started hundreds of miles away from the impact of the crater.
The authors estimate that asteroid power was equivalent to 10 billion of the atomic bombs used in World War II.
The space would have vaporized the surrounding terrain and sent water protection to the ocean far from the impact area at the speed of a jet plane, Gulick said. That water forms a tsunami, hundreds of meters high, that can travel all the way to Illinois today.
Gulick told Newsweek that rock space would enter at speeds of over 12 miles per second, so even dinosaurs 1,000 miles away from the point of impact probably did not live very long before reaching the heat in them.
"Powerful within 1,500 kilometers you will see very little before being incinerated," he said.
The impact released billions of tons of sulfur in the sky
Dinosaurs were not the only creature lost after the Chicxulub hit. Flying pterosaurs and sea predators such as mosquitoes and plesiosaurs have also disappeared, along with 75% of life on the planet.
Read more: T. rexes and other dinosaur skeletons appear almost alive in a new set of fascinating images likely to be the result of environmental events after impact.
According to Gulick's team, the effect evaporated sulfur-rich rocks, emitting a haze of sulfur gas in the air that blasted the sun and cooled the planet.
Scientists concluded that the samples they contained contained large amounts of sandstone, limestone, and granite but that they lacked sulfur-rich rocks, although rocks near the impact site should be filled with sulfur. So they estimate that at least 357 billion tonnes (325 billion metric tons) 0f sulfur fuel has entered the atmosphere.
By comparison, the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano was approximately one-fourth of sulfur in the sky as the asosaur-dooming asteroid. And this volcanic eruption has cooled Earth by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit for five years.
The effects of the Chicxulub asteroid almost certainly last longer than Krakatoa's, Gulick said.
In the case of Chicxulub, he told Newsweek, "temperatures around the world will begin to fall as a sulfuric aerosol haze surrounds the planet."
"The Earth is unlikely to look like the familiar blue marble from space," he added, "and it may take up to two decades to clear again."