According to a recent BBC documentary, the asteroid responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago landed in “the worst possible place”. Had it happened a few minutes before or after, the dinosaurs could have survived the impact, and may be still present nowadays.
Sometimes it takes very little to rock the entire world. 66 million years ago, an asteroid was ejected from its belt, probably following a collision, and found itself on the path which led it to cross into the Earth’s orbit. Its mass, its speed and its trajectory combined with the orbit determined the place and time of the impact on the coast of what is now the city of Chicxulub, in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The shock, the equivalent of 10 billion atomic bombs, was what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. According to researchers, this asteroid landed “in the worst possible place”. Just a few minutes or even a few seconds of a difference, and the future of our planet could have been completely turned on its head.
This is what we can learn from a recent BBC documentary called “The Day the Dinosaurs Died”. Scientists in fact managed to drill to huge depths (1.3 kilometers down) to analyse the nature of the sediments inside the Chicxulub crater. They thus discovered that the area was mainly made up of limestone and ocean sediments rich in carbon dioxide, sulphur and gypsum. According to the researchers, the Gulf of Mexico was “the worst place on Earth” that the asteroid could have crashed into. Following the impact, the spread of sulphur into the atmosphere triggered a long ice age, by blocking out sunlight. According to the researchers, due to the rotation of the Earth, even one or two minutes of a difference would have been enough to considerably modify the result of the impact. If the asteroid had hit the Earth a little further along the coast, in a deeper area, the dinosaurs may have been able to survive the consequences of the cataclysm, and we probably wouldn’t be around to talk about it!
“A few minutes earlier or later and the asteroid would’ve hit the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean and not slammed into a big, volatile platform that was then vaporized as it spread upward and out,” explained Sean P. Gulick, a University of Texas professor. The scientists maintain that an impact in the nearby Atlantic Ocean or in the Pacific Ocean would have meant that far fewer rocks were vaporised, particularly gypsum, which is lethal. The clouds would have been less dense and the sun’s rays would have been able to reach the surface of the Earth, which would have meant that what happened next could have been avoided. So as we can see, sometimes it doesn’t take much to change the course of the Earth’s history. And if we leave our imaginations really let loose, we could even ask ourselves whether this article would ever have been written….