The Chicxulub Crater is predictably located near the town of Chicxulub in Yucatan. Now home to little more than 4,000 people, Chicxulub is not the sort of place you would associate with so much history. In fact, the Chicxulub Crater may hold the keys to unlocking some of life’s greatest secrets: the end of the dinosaurs. After decades of research, scientific experts from around the world believe that they have unlocked the keys to understanding the end of dinosaurian life on Earth.
Today, we are going back in time millions of years to understand the Chixculub Crater as well as how a recent discovery by a team of experts may have changed our understanding of the world entirely.
Introducing the Chicxulub Crater
Today’s adventure back in time starts at the feet of the Chicxulub Crater. Discovered in 1978 by the geophysicist team of Glen Penfield and Antonio Camargo, the Chicxulub crater was made by an asteroid that is alleged to have wiped out all dinosaurian life on the planet.
After digging deep into Chicxulub, what incredible discoveries did these experts make?
The Raw Power of the Chicxulub Collision
After extensively analyzing the crater, experts have been able to approximate the power that the asteroid possessed as it collided into Earth. According to scientific research, the asteroid that created Chicxulub had roughly 921 billion times more energy than the nuclear bomb that was dropped onto Hiroshima during World War II.
When compared to the strongest man-made destination ever, the Tsar Bomba, the Chicxulub crater is in a league of its own.
Digging Beneath the Surface
As a relatively recent discovery, we are still unveiling all sorts of facts and figures through extensive analysis of the crater. Through years of hard work, scientists have begun to explore the world below the crater in order to further illuminate the deadly and disastrous collision.
A Relatively New Discovery
While the Chicxulub crater was only truly discovered in 1978, the truth is that this crater has been there for millions upon millions of years. In fact, Camargo and Penfield hadn’t been looking for the cater when they found it! The geophysicist had actually been searching for petroleum!
Still, even an incidental discovery can lead to some startling truths. What did their accidental discovery reveal?
Performing a Magnetic Survey
In order to get some answers, Penfield and Camargo would perform a magnetic survey to map potential drilling hotspots near the Gulf of Mexico. As they looked over the results, Penfield would note an underwater arc with incredible symmetry. This arc was 40 miles wide and tailed off into a circular pattern.
Penfield’s discovery would change the minds of scientists around the planet, unveiling truly horrifying truths about Chicxulub.
Clues of a Cataclysmic Event
It didn’t take long for Penfield to realize the full weight of his discovery. The Chicxulub crater was no longer just a geographical discovery, it was the idling vehicle that could transport researchers to answers they had been searching for. Camargo would present the findings that his team had discovered during the 1981 Society of Exploration Geophysicists Conference.
While Camargo and Penfield made a compelling case, they were still largely ignored.
Research Continues Into the Chicxulub Crater
Even though Camargo and Penfield didn’t change minds in their time, researchers have since picked up on their work. Theories from all over the world have manifested in the years since Chicxulub was discovered. A physicist by the name of Luis Alvarez has managed to make his name most well-known of them all.
The Chicxulub – Alvarez Theory
According to Luis Alvarez as well as his son, the geologist Walter Alvarez, a gigantic impact on the planet’s surface had triggered the global extinction of plants and animals. Research performed on the Chicxulub has since echoed some of their suppositions, including the timing prediction at the bridge between the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods.
With that being said, Luis Alvarez wasn’t completely vindicated. There was more work to be done.
Excursion of a Lifetime
While the Alvarez theory had gained steady ground, science doesn’t hold back until a firm answer is found. In 2016, a geophysicist team comprised of geophysicist Joanna and Gulick Morgan would put together a crew of 30 researchers to sail into the Gulf of Mexico for further research.
Upon arriving, Joanna and Gulick would make shocking discoveries.
Work From a Drilling Station
In order to drill into the Gulf of Mexico to perform their research, the researchers would set up shop aboard a drilling station nearly 40 feet above the ocean’s surface. The team would then lead a drilling operation into the earth, going more than 2,000 feet into the planet’s crust.
Over the past 66 million years, sediment had built up in significant portions, thus rendering the work slow going. Despite this hurdle, the team of Gulick and Joanna Morgan would find their equipment up to the task.
A Shocking Discovery Comes to Light
As the team drilled deeper into the earth’s crust surrounding the Chicxulub Crater, they would come to make a peculiar discovery. The peak ring in the crust would be comprised of granite, a material typically found far deeper in the Earth than where it was located near Chicxulub.
What could cause granite to appear in such a shallow region?
What Could Create Liquid Rock
As it turns out, finding granite this shallow meant that the asteroid had a larger impact than anticipated. According to their calculations, finding granite at this depth meant that the asteroid had pushed sediment below the earth before turning the rock to liquid, thus causing it to bubble back to the earth’s surface!
Morgan would tell The New York Times, “These rocks behaved like a fluid for a short period of time, and rocks don’t tend to do that.”
Revealing Life After Collision
While their discovery of liquid rock had been astounding, it was far from the only information that the Morgan expedition took home. Further research would reveal how the Chicxulub asteroid had ended life on earth as dinosaurs had known it.
In 2019, a team of scientists would unveil this particularly likely scenario revolving around the Chicxulub crater.
Staring With a Bang
Thanks to their research, Gulick and his team had found 130 meters of rock “a day” compared to the “centimeter per thousand years’ ratio they had been working on before. This allowed unprecedented access to untold amounts of data. Their research revealed that the Chicxulub crater started with a 60 m file wide chunk of space rock cratering into the earth.
Fire and Rocks Hurtling in the Air
The impact of the massive space rock would send fiery rocks hurtling into the air, causing the planet’s upper atmosphere to completely change. According to Gulick, it is entirely possible that rocks from earth had blown from the surface of the planet all the way to the surface of the moon, still “hot” from the original impact!
Tsunamis Raged in All Directions
While fiery rocks hurtled through the air, other rocks had time to cool — these would turn into tektites. As tektites settled on the planet, tsunamis were sent in all directions. Water would sweep over the planet before settling once again, rushing back toward the site of the original impact.
Can you imagine the complete chaos that the world was thrown into during this cataclysmic event?
Wildfires Swarm the Planet
Researchers would declare that after the tsunamis reached their peak, wildfires would continue to burn. The land surrounding the Chicxulub crater would be ravaged by intense fires, leaving more than a four-inch layer of gravel and sand. Scientists used ancient pieces of charcoal to make this stunning discovery!
The World Changed Forever
By the time that their research was done, Morgan’s team would help us further understand the complexities of the impact that asteroids can have on our planet. Their work around the Yucatan Peninsula has helped to fundamentally change our early understanding of the world.
What other discoveries are waiting beneath the Earth’s crust?