When a 6-mile-wide asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago, it wreaked havoc, showering the planet in hot clouds of sulfur and ash, completely changing the climate and wiping about 75% of the species on Earth at the time. The impact is what likely caused the dinosaurs to go extinct.
We don't know a lot about this cataclysmic event or how life managed to make a comeback.
Now, after weeks of drilling down into a rock slab in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists has reached the impact crater that the dinosaur-killing asteroid left behind. The rock samples from the crater could teach us a lot about this violent period in Earth's history.
About the crater: The crater is called Chicxulub and it spans about 125 miles wide. This isn't the first time scientists have explored Chicxulub, but this new mission by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling drilled into part of the crater that's never been explored. The target region is made up of a ring of mountains created by the asteroid's impact. The ring is one of the most important features of the crater, and we could learn a lot from it, according to Sean Gulick, who co-led the expedition.
"In that section the big excitement is, 'How did life come back at ground zero?'" Gulick told NPR. "Is there any clue to what organisms repopulated first, as opposed to what the environmental consequences were for the ocean?"
The scientists have collected samples of the rock that are full of fossils of some of the organisms that survived the impact. They'll send the rock samples to a German lab in June for further analysis.
Soon we might have a better understanding of how life bounced back from such a cataclysmic natural disaster.