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Scientists hit pay dirt at Chicxulub crater

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chicxulub crater drilling
Scientists analyze rock cores retrieved from the Chicxulub crater in a drilling expedition that began in April. Photo: ECORD

Drilling off the Yucatán coast since April, scientists have achieved one of their main goals in their quest to understand the effects of a now-famous crater that rocked Chicxulub 66 million years ago.

The crater’s impact is thought to be linked to the extinction of dinosaurs.

“We’re feeling pretty good,” co–chief scientist Sean Gulick told Science Magazine, referring to their progress. “I’m not getting much sleep out here, so we’re little delirious.”

Last week, researchers brought up a 3-meter core section that contained bits of granite along with minerals originally deposited in hot, fluid-filled cracks—the first sign that the team had entered the peak ring.

chicxulub crater drilling
L/B Myrtle, docked, loaded and ready to go. Photo: ECORD

Gulick, a geophysicist at the University of Texas, Austin, says it may be several more days of drilling before granite dominates the core samples and the team can declare itself entirely within the peak ring. But Joanna Morgan, the other chief scientist at Imperial College London, thinks the presence of any granite at all signifies that the team is already working within the peak ring layer.

The team of scientists living on board the drilling platform is now investigating the fractures and veins of minerals that precipitated out of hot solutions in the wake of the impact. They are hoping to find signs of ancient and modern DNA.

As of May 1, the team has reached a depth of 700 meters. The project is funded through the first week of June, and the crew hopes to go as deep as 1,500 meters.

Read more at Science Magazine.

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