Recent computer simulations indicate the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs hit Earth at the “deadliest possible” angle.
According to researchers, it struck at an angle of approximately 60 degrees. Such a strike would have discharged billions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere, blocking the Sun, and triggering a nuclear winter that eliminated the dinosaurs and 75 % of life on Earth. Here is what you should know.
The Asteroid That Doomed The Dinosaurs is Now Re-examined
A team of researchers from the University of Freiburg, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Imperial College London analyzed the form and subsurface structure of the Chicxulub meteorite crater in Mexico. They utilized geophysical data to develop computer models of the event. The results are astonishing.
The computer simulations helped researchers determine the impact angle and direction of the incoming meteor. The new models are the first 3D simulations ever realized. They reproduce the full event, from the first impact to the end.
The simulations also offer proof that the asteroid hit at a steep angle, approximately 60 % degrees above the skyline; it reached its target from the north-east. Gareth Collins, the study’s lead author, explained: “We know that this was among the worst-case scenarios for the lethality on impact because it put more hazardous debris into the upper atmosphere and scattered it everywhere – the very thing that led to a nuclear winter.”
An impact angle of approximately 60 % degrees is perfect for hurling as much vapor into the atmosphere as possible. If the asteroid had come in from straight overhead, it would have hit more rock but not sent as much into the air. And, if it were more of a glancing blow, less rock would have been vaporized.
The analysis was also informed by new results from drilling into the 125 miles (200km) crater. The found rocks contained lots of evidence of the extreme forces generated by the asteroid’s impact.