Scientists May Have Found Pieces of the Asteroid That Caused the Extinction of the Dinosaurs: Report


Dinosaurs with a meteor

Getty Dinosaurs with the asteroid

Scientists are piecing together remnants of the day the extinction of the dinosaurs began.

According to The New York Times, scientists studying a site in North Dakota believe they have discovered pieces of an asteroid that slammed into Earth about 66 million years ago off the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s believed the object caused widespread destruction and led to the eventual extinction of the dinosaurs, which paved the way for mammals to rule the planet.

When the asteroid hit, it created a 20-mile-deep crater that sent molten debris into the air that later cooled into “spherules of glass,” the newspaper explained. Experts say these objects are unmistakable signs that an asteroid impact occurred.

Over millions of years, some of the spherules have been altered due to interactions with the environment. However, at the North Dakota site — called Tanis — some of the spherules have been preserved in amber, the Times reported.

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Robert DePalma, an adjunct professor and University of Manchester graduate student, said Tanis researchers have found spherules containing pieces of unmelted rock. When testing the fragments, they discovered that not only did they contain portions of limestone crust from the impact crater thousands of miles away, but some pieces included high amounts of iron, nickel, and chromium.

These elements are consistent with asteroid material, and could possibly be from the one that collided with Earth that fateful day.

“All these little dirty nuggets in there,” DePalma said during a speech at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center this week, according to the outlet. “Every single speck that takes away from this beautiful clear glass is a piece of debris.”

“To see a piece of the culprit is just a goose-bumpy experience,” he added.

As the Times notes, DePalma’s findings have not been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

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Professor Phil Manning, DePalma’s PhD supervisor, told BBC that he also believes the pieces are from the infamous asteroid.

“We were able to pull apart the chemistry and identify the composition of that material,” Manning said. “All the evidence, all of the chemical data from that study suggests strongly that we’re looking at a piece of the impactor; of the asteroid that ended it for the dinosaurs.”

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Additionally, DePalma said a preserved leg of a dinosaur that may have died the day the asteroid hit has been found at the Tanis site.

“We’ve got so many details with this site that tell us what happened moment by moment,” DePalma said, according to BBC, “it’s almost like watching it play out in the movies. You look at the rock column, you look at the fossils there, and it brings you back to that day.”