About 66 million years ago, a meteorite 10 km across crashed into our planet in the region of the Yucatan Peninsula. The explosion killed all living things for tens of kilometers around, caused tsunamis and fires, evaporated tons of stones and dust, which blocked the light of the Sun for 18 months. Without light and photosynthesis, many plants died, and behind them, three quarters of all fauna on Earth. Today, this is only a theory - but what actually happened in the first days after the meteorite impact?
To answer this question, scientists made an expedition to the Chicxulub crater, drilled a series of wells and extracted samples from depths from 500 to 1300 m. The latter exactly corresponds to the time of the meteorite impact itself. Along the way, a new record was set for the fastest data acquisition from geological deposits - 130 meters of rock layers per day. Scientists have found broken and molten rock fragments, traces of flooding, biomarkers of burnt mycelium and suspicious sulfur deficiency in the samples.
New data show that the outer rocks were literally pushed into the interior under the impact of the meteorite. The fires actually raged for a very short time, but over a vast territory, and they were followed by a tsunami with a wave height of several hundred meters. But the absence of sulfur where it should have been, prompted scientists to think that this substance evaporated immediately after entering the atmosphere. This led to a global cooling, so the living world on the planet did not burn out in conflagrations, but gradually froze over, unable to adapt to the rapid transformation of the climate.
As indirect evidence, another find is cited - an abundance of fossilized remains of ancient fish 3, 000 km from Chicxulub. This fish was brought and thrown away ashore by the same tsunami, and this happened against the backdrop of widespread rains, mudflows and landslides, since the marine inhabitants were buried under a thick layer of soil.
Rock samples taken from Chicxulub crater