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There’s a renewed debate these days about what killed the dinosaurs. Most scientists say it was an asteroid that slammed into the Gulf of Mexico. A few say it was giant volcanoes. And some say it was a combination of the two.
Regardless of whether it was the dinosaur killer, though, there’s no doubt the asteroid impact put on quite a show. It gouged a giant crater, blasted billions of tons of debris into the atmosphere, and created a tsunami that rolled all the way to central Texas.
The crater is known as Chicxulub. It’s centered just off the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s about a hundred miles wide and a dozen miles deep.
A few years ago, researchers drilled into a ring of mountain peaks inside the crater’s rim. The rocks revealed what happened when the miles-wide asteroid hit.
The high temperature and pressure excavated an initial crater about 20 miles deep. For about 10 minutes, the ground around the impact site acted like a fluid, with rocks flowing down the sides of the crater. But with the rock above it gone, the crater floor pushed upward. Granite from deep below the surface flowed up, then out, forming the ring of peaks.
Melted rock formed a thick layer at the bottom of the crater. Some of the rock that was blasted into the air fell into the crater as well.
Nothing survived the impact for hundreds of miles around. Yet life began returning to the site within a few years — new life at a site of mass destruction.
Script by Damond Benningfield