According to new research, there is finally solid proof that an asteroid did in fact kill the dinosaurs around 66 million years ago. While the most talked about theory was that an asteroid killed them, there have been other hypotheses such as volcanic eruptions or other global catastrophes.
Back in the 1980s, researchers discovered asteroid dust in the geological layer from the time of the dinosaur extinction. Then in the 1990s, experts confirmed that the Chicxulub impact crater was the same age as the geological rock layer. And now, it has been confirmed that asteroid dust has been found inside of the impact crater. “The circle is now finally complete,” stated Steven Goderis, who is a geochemistry professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and who led the study.
Researchers involved with the International Ocean Discovery Program mission took almost 3,000 feet of rock core samples from the impact crater that was buried beneath the seafloor. (A picture of a piece of the rock core can be seen here.)
They were able to confirm that the dust did come from an asteroid because it contained several elements associated with space rocks – specifically iridium which is found in some asteroids but uncommon in the crust of our planet. The largest amounts of iridium were discovered in a piece of the rock core that measured just 5 centimeters and was located at the top of the peak ring of the crater. The sediment layer found in the crater from the impact was so thick that the researchers were able to date it all the way back to two decades following the strike.
To make sure that they were correct in their study, additional analysis was conducted in several different labs around the world – Belgium, Austria, the United States, and Japan. Goderis reiterated this by stating, “We combined the results from four independent laboratories around the world to make sure we got this right.”
Immediately after the impact, dust would have flown into the atmosphere but researchers believe it only lasted for a couple of decades at the most, which is approximately how long it would have taken many of the species to completely die out.
Additional studies are being planned for the summer with the focus being in the center of the crater where experts are hoping to find additional materials from the asteroid.
The study was published in Science Advances where it can be read in full.