They will have spent the last seven weeks drilling into the deep basin carved out of the Earth’s surface 66 million years ago by the asteroid that is believed to have precipitated the end of the dinosaurs. The mission is a success, and the first samples have been sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Will the mystery of the extinction of ancient reptiles soon be solved? About 65 million years ago, an asteroid hit the Earth in Yucatan (Mexico), creating the Chicxulub crater and precipitating the disappearance of the dinosaurs. This crater, which today is partially under the Atlantic Ocean, is neither visible nor accessible, as it is covered with sediment. A drilling campaign started in April has just borne fruit. Carrots have already been sent to the United States for the first analyses.
The objective of this team of American-British researchers was to penetrate 1,500 m under the sea, but they only reached the depth of 1,300 m. Even so, deep down, they didn’t expect so much. Dave Smith, the director of operations, believes that he now has more than enough material to try to decipher the role played by this gigantic piece of stone, a priori partly responsible for the disappearance of ancient reptiles.
The first rock samples were sealed in their metal cases before being stacked in a refrigerated container. They will be transported to the shore and sent to an American laboratory for the first analyses. Then they’ll go to Bremen, Germany, where the 33-person science team will meet to put the rocks through a battery of tests.
Remember that this crater, with a diameter at least equal to 80 kilometers wide, was caused by the fall of a body about ten kilometers in diameter. The impact then released an energy equivalent to an explosion whose power was estimated at 5 billion times the Hiroshima bomb. The result was the injection of such an amount of dust into the atmosphere that the Earth’s sunshine was greatly reduced for a time, causing the food chain to collapse.
By examining these pretty cores, the specialists will try to pierce the changes that have taken place over time by analyzing the deposits in the basin created by the impact. The microfossils preserved in these rocks will also be analyzed and we will even go in search of DNA fragments. In particular, we should be able to deduce the state of the acidity of the oceans just after the impact and how it has evolved, favoring the extinction of certain species.