Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid slammed into the Earth's atmosphere, traveling 45,000 miles per hour. The asteroid ripped a hole 18 miles deep in the Earth's crust, triggering devastating winds, seismic waves, and tsunamis. For decades, scientists have hypothesized that the asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. The debris thrown into the atmosphere blocked out the sun, wiping out plants, and then herbivores, and then carnivores. And now, recently uncovered evidence provides a snapshot of exactly what happened on the day of the impact.
Immediately after the asteroid struck, fiery spherules rained down, a 30-foot wave tossed fish on shore, and winds up to 600 miles per hour tore through the air, shredding plant life. New evidence captures the devastation in more detail than ever before - and the evidence might even debunk dinosaur conspiracy theories or inspire new hit dinosaur movies.
A dinosaur looking up 66 million years ago might have spotted the asteroid as it approached Earth. The huge object, flying toward the planet at 45,000 miles per hour, remained visible for about 60 hours before impact.
Even before the asteroid struck, living creatures felt its impact. As the asteroid smashed into the atmosphere, it created a shock wave that shook the Earth.
The enormous asteroid struck the Western Hemisphere where the modern-day Yucatan peninsula is located and created a crater 18 miles deep. The massive impact released more energy than one billion Hiroshima detonations.
Due to the strike, Earth's crust momentarily bounced back and peaked higher than Mt. Everest before it broke apart. The impact threw 25 trillion metric tons of rock, ash, and debris into Earth's atmosphere. This dangerous material, hotter than the sun's surface, sparked fires for thousands of miles.
The asteroid's impact created an enormous hole in the Earth's crust. Almost immediately, bits of molten earth flew into the atmosphere where they cooled into glass particles called tektites. Within 15 minutes of the impact, tektites rained down on Earth and continued to do so for nearly an hour.
Recent evidence has shown these tektites traveled great distances; they took lives as far away as modern-day North Dakota. A fossil site there shows evidence of a mass extinction due to the asteroid impact and the subsequent events. The glass beads are believed to have burned vegetation when they landed due to their immense heat, and they fell in such high density that they clogged fishes' gills.
When the meteor struck the Yucatan peninsula, it created a blast of air that shredded the surrounding land. According to scholars, winds reached speeds of over 600 mph. The air blast and accompanying shock wave completely wiped out life within 900 miles. Plants were shredded, animals were pulverized, and only a barren wasteland remained.