It was “six miles wide” and when it hit 66 million years ago, abruptly ending the Cretaceous period, it hollowed out a crater 18 miles deep. But that’s not all:
Some of the ejecta escaped Earth’s gravitational pull and went into irregular orbits around the sun. Over millions of years, bits of it found their way to other planets and moons in the solar system. Mars was eventually strewn with the debris—just as pieces of Mars, knocked aloft by ancient asteroid impacts, have been found on Earth. A 2013 study in the journal Astrobiology estimated that tens of thousands of pounds of impact rubble may have landed on Titan, a moon of Saturn, and on Europa and Callisto, which orbit Jupiter—three satellites that scientists believe may have promising habitats for life. Mathematical models indicate that at least some of this vagabond debris still harbored living microbes. The asteroid may have sown life throughout the solar system, even as it ravaged life on Earth.
The asteroid was vaporized on impact. Its substance, mingling with vaporized Earth rock, formed a fiery plume, which reached halfway to the moon before collapsing in a pillar of incandescent dust. Computer models suggest that the atmosphere within fifteen hundred miles of ground zero became red hot from the debris storm, triggering gigantic forest fires. As the Earth rotated, the airborne material converged at the opposite side of the planet, where it fell and set fire to the entire Indian subcontinent. Measurements of the layer of ash and soot that eventually coated the Earth indicate that fires consumed about seventy per cent of the world’s forests. Meanwhile, giant tsunamis resulting from the impact churned across the Gulf of Mexico, tearing up coastlines, sometimes peeling up hundreds of feet of rock, pushing debris inland and then sucking it back out into deep water, leaving jumbled deposits that oilmen sometimes encounter in the course of deep-sea drilling.Douglas Preston, “The day the dinosaurs died” at New Yorker
If the ejecta traveled so far, perhaps crises of this type might help explain some of the odd genomes we encounter.
Follow UD News at Twitter!
One approach to the extinction is “dino diminuendo” — they were dying out anyway; the asteroid deep-sixed them much quicker. See, for example:
Smithsonian: The Asteroid Strike Was Only One Factor In Dinosaur Extinction
The Atlantic: “Nastiest feud in science” erupts over dinosaur extinction theory
In the past, the field has been littered with speculations such as that dinosaurs were dumber than mammals and did not look after their young. But we now know that some dinosaurs did look after their young and that the capacity to do so is much older than formerly thought. Also that placental mammals are not uniformly smarter than all other life forms.
Extinction: Had the dinosaurs been dying out before the big K-T extinction?
Dino diminuendo (They were dying out before the asteroid hit.) That might help account for why all dinosaurs disappeared but only a large proportion of other vertebrates.
Smoking did not kill the dinosaurs, but dark matter might have contributed
Dinosaurs doomed by egg-laying?
Size helped largest dinos survive longer?
Do mass extinctions happen every 26 million years or so?
Study: Two years’ darkness provides clue to total dinosaur extinction
We can’t understand evolution without understanding stasis and extinction
What we think it must have been like:
(You don’t need to work today, do you?)