Sixty-six million years ago, our planet saw an even that wiped out the dominant life forms living on it at the moment, making probably the biggest impact on the evolution of life here since the Cambrian explosion. I’m talking, of course, about the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Although it hasn’t yet been confirmed by scientists that the asteroid was indeed responsible for the dinosaurs disappearing, it is still a widely accepted theory. However, the enormous impact the event had on the life present on Earth at the moment is undeniable.
And finally, for the first time ever, 66 million years after the asteroid left the immense crater, the dinosaur killing asteroid crater will be drilled by scientists. This will actually be the first time the crater will be investigated in such depth to find out more about both the massive extinction event and how it affected the remaining life on the planet.
The team of researchers from the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) received $10 million in funding to travel to Chicxulub, in the Yucatán province of Mexico, and to examine the 12 miles deep and over 100 miles wide crater left by the 6-mile wide asteroid. But their job is far more complex than that.
According to Sean Gulick, co-chief researcher with the IODP expedition and geologist with the University of Texas,
Chicxulub is the only preserved structure with an intact peak ring that we can get to. All the other ones are either on another planet, or they’ve been eroded. You can assume that at ground zero of this impact we are dealing with a sterile ocean, and over time life renewed itself. We might learn something for the future. Certain events can have lasting effects on our planets morphology, stratigraphic layers, and, of course, life.
So, the team will embark on a two-month long mission to travel to Chicxulub and examine the crater. They will leave on a boat which will be temporarily transformed into a drilling platform for the project. The members of the expedition will have to drill one mile into the crater in order to collect very significant rock samples.
Despite the fact that no asteroids of that size are predicted to have any chances of colliding with Earth in the foreseeable future, the study is still extremely important to many different fields of research. Sure, these fields are mostly theoretical, but science is still science, and anything new we find out can potentially be used for something far more important in the future.
Image source: Wikimedia