Extinction By Chance? Dinosaurs Would Have Survived If Chicxulub Asteroid Struck Earth 30 Seconds Earlier
The now extinct dinosaurs may not have been wiped out if the asteroid that annihilated them arrived a few seconds earlier, a group of researchers claims.
Apocalyptic Damage Due To Circumstances And Not Size Of The Asteroid
Sean Gulick, from the University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues said that the asteroid that killed the prehistoric dinosaurs caused apocalyptic damage to our planet mainly because of circumstances and not because of the size of the rock.
The claim means that the extinction of the dinosaurs all boils down to the timing of the asteroid striking Earth.
The researchers said that if the extraterrestrial rock arrived about 30 seconds earlier, it may not have killed the dinosaurs. The asteroid would have hit the waters of the ocean, where it could have caused less damage.
Findings of a new study by Gulick and colleagues suggest that the nine-mile wide asteroid, a relatively minor one compared to the asteroid strike that is likened to a grain of sand hitting a bowling ball, crashed into land that then catapulted a global winter and wiped out many species on Earth.
Scientists have drilled into the 20-mile deep crater created by the impact of the asteroid off the Yucatan peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico to better understand the asteroid strike that happened about 68 million years ago.
The site known as Chicxulub has long been a puzzle for scientists because the scale of the impact, which is just 110 miles wide, does not justify the associated consequences of the event.
Analysis of the extract samples from the crater though offered some answers to Gulick and colleagues.
Asteroid May Have Hit The Ocean And Caused Less Damage
Gulick said that the rock hit Earth in an unfortunate place adding that if the asteroid smashed on the planet moments earlier, it may have hit a different location and not cause as much damage. Researchers said a slight delay could have meant the rock hit the deep waters of the Atlantic of the Pacific.
"That would have meant much less vaporised rock. Sunlight could still have reached the planet's surface, meaning what happened next might have been avoided," Gulick said.
The samples from the site hint that massive amounts of sulphates were thrown into the atmosphere, which were followed by fires and soot that would have made the Earth cool enough for a decade to wipe out most life.
The result was the surface air temperature of the planet significantly dropping. The world experienced subfreezing temperatures for three to 16 years and took more than 30 years to recover.
Although there are studies that show the existence of dinosaurs was already shaky prior to the asteroid strike, some scientists think that humans may not have become the dominant species on Earth if the cataclysmic asteroid strike did not occur more than 60 million years ago.
The results of the study are set to be revealed in a BBC documentary "The Day the Dinosaurs Died," scheduled to be aired on Monday, May 15.