Scientists will now drill into ground zero, The Famous Chicxulub Crater caused by the asteroid impact that wiped out dinosaurs from earth
Did you know how the dinosaurs went extinct? If you assumed it was an asteroid impact, then you are correct. There is a “Ground Zero” of evolution. In the Gulf of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lies a gigantic depression in the Earth’s surface called the famous Chicxulub crater, which was caused by the impact of a large asteroid 66 million years ago. The impact obliterated the dinosaurs and possibly 70% of life on earth.
This month geologists are going to drive a huge diamond drill into the core of the crater to try and acquire rock samples from the outer and inner core of the structure. Research on the samples will provide valuable clues on the resurgence of life again on our planet and whether the crater was also a host for new microbial life.
1 The Chicxulub Crater Is One of Its Kind on Earth
The 180 km wide famous Chicxulub crater is one of its kind, featuring a peak ring caused by the impact. It is the only source of peak ring research according to Texas University geophysicist Sean Gulick, one of the chief researchers on the $10 million project. The drilling, using a diamond tipped drill will commence in the last week of March in an area 30 km off the Mexican port of Progreso. The crater lies 17 meters deep in the sea bed. The drill will drive through limestone deposits that have accumulated in layers measuring 500meters above the crater surface.
2 The Drilling Will Take Two Months and Provide Insight into Evolutionary History
The drilling will take almost 2 months to catalogue rock types, microfossils and DNA samples acquired from the dig. Attempts will be made to reach a depth of 1500 meters. What’s fascinating about the drilling is that with progress, researchers will uncover layers corresponding to periods of earth’s evolutionary history where each depth will unravel the mysteries of the geological conditions of how life was created within the crater.
3 The Famous Chicxulub Crater Was Discovered Only In 1950 by an Oil and Mining Company
The crater was discovered recently in 1950 by Pemex, an oil drilling company in Mexico. Workers were fascinated by the intriguing patterns on the sea bed. Believe it or not, quartz crystals affected by the impact existed in Pemex company’s oil wells decades ago yet no one even had a clue. Gulick along with Joanna Morgan of the Imperial College of London finally discovered the peak ring of the famous Chicxulub crater in 2005 using mini seismic explosions to highlight the structure in the sea.
4 Peak Rings Exist Only On the Moon and Other Planets
The amazing fact about this entire episode is that the geological formations called peak rings exist only on the moon and other planets. On earth there are only two peak rings known to exist. One is the Vredefort crater in South Africa which is 2 billion years old and the 1.5 billion year old Sudbury crater in Canada. However their peak rings have long been eroded and faded away. Peak rings are the distinct circular formations caused by an asteroid impact or a natural crater.
5 The Drilling Will Yield Valuable Geological Insight into the Progression of Microbial Life
The drilling exercise will seek to explore the characters of rocks that make up the inner structure of the peak rings. Scientists are eager to find traces of DNA and species of life that could have been generated in the aftermath of the impact. The porous nature of the rocks in certain places could well have been filled with hot fluid which would then yield prime conditions for the growth of microbes. The theory was affirmed by IODP (International Ocean Discovery Program) team member and astro biologist,Charles Cockell of the University of Edinburgh. It will also prove that the microbes derived their energy through the unconventional means of sulphur present in the rocks.
6 Asteroids Can Destroy Life, But Their Impact Can Create Life Too
Although the aspect of drilling into an asteroid crater may be boring for some, it may be amazing to know that we may well have not existed had it not been for the regeneration of life in the famous Chicxulub crater. Asteroids can be dangerous with the power to extinguish planetary life. A small consolation though is the fact that it also provides conditions conducive to life again. The entire scientific fraternity waits eagerly for the results, which are to be yielded by Earth’s ground zero.