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Space dust beneath Chicxulub Crater confirms asteroid impact

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Illustration: Getty

The 2016 scientific drilling expedition off the coast of Yucatán has yielded space dust, evidence that the asteroid impact and dinosaur extinction are “indisputably linked.”

Around 66 million years ago, all the dinosaurs that couldn’t fly were abruptly wiped out, and a growing body of research identifies the culprit as an asteroid impact that left the famous Chicxulub Crater. Now, new research from the Free University of Brussels-VUB and Imperial College London has found a spike in concentrations of space dust in the layers atop the Chicxulub crater, which correspond to the time of the dinosaurs’ demise and similar deposits around the world.

Earlier: Was it really a comet that hit Chicxulub?

Core material retrieved from the Chicxulub crater site is under study. Photo: IODP

Though this space dust is present in low quantities all over Earth, the study published in Science Advances found it is four times more concentrated in the Chicxulub impact crater than in the surrounding area.

A spike in worldwide iridium deposits at the time of the dinosaurs’ demise also constitutes indisputable evidence that an asteroid created the Chicxulub Crater, which isn’t visible to the naked eye, but is connected to the Yucatán Peninsula’s vast collection of cenotes, or underground bodies of water.

The Chicxulub drill site was not far off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Graphic: NASA

The evidence has been studied since a rig carrying a team of international scientists drilled beneath the Gulf of Mexico nearly six years ago. They extracted cores of earth to study in various labs around the world, looking for clues behind the catastrophic asteroid impact.

The 60-day expedition had the team drilling a well 1.5 kilometers into the ocean floor about 30 kilometers off the coast of Sisal.

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