Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More Evidence Chicxulub Was Too Early

30.03.2006


A new study of melted rock ejected far from the Yucatan’s Chicxulub impact crater bolsters the idea that the famed impact was too early to have caused the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.



A careful geochemical fingerprinting of glass spherules found in multiple layers of sediments from northeast Mexico, Texas, Guatemala, Belize and Haiti all point back to Chicxulub as their source. But the analysis places the impact at about 300,000 years before the infamous extinctions that mark the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, a.k.a. the K-T boundary.

Using an array of electron microscopy techniques, Markus Harting of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands has found that chemical compositions of the spherules all match what would be expected of rocks melted at the Chicxulub impact. The spherules are now found in several layers because after they originally hit the ground, they were "reworked" by erosion to create later layers of sediments, he said. It’s this reworking long after the impact that has misplaced some of the spherules into sediments that, based on the fossils in the same sediments, are misleadingly close to the K-T boundary.


Harting is scheduled to present his latest findings on Monday, 3 April Backbone of the Americas-Patagonia to Alaska. The meeting is co-convened by the Geological Society of America and the Asociación Geológica Argentina, with collaboration of the Sociedad Geológica de Chile. The meeting takes place 3-7 April in Mendoza, Argentina.

"The whole story is that it’s a single impact event," said Harting of his analysis of the multiple spherule layers. In fact, the original spherule layer is not particularly hard to make out, since its spherules are not as abraded and damaged as those which were moved around and re-deposited in later, higher sediments. Above these, and younger still, Harting has also identified the famous layer of extraterrestrial iridium in sediments worldwide which was originally touted as the smoking gun for an impact somewhere on Earth at the K-T boundary.

"In most of the sections we found spherules we also found the iridium layer at or near the K-T boundary," said Harting. "That makes the mismatch with Chicxulub even more obvious."

The sediments from the region are also providing clues to what transpired during those 300,000 years between the impact and the K-T boundary die-offs. "Nothing happened between them," said Harting. "The K-T iridium layer is a totally different event."

Disconnecting the Chicxulub impact from the K-T boundary also helps make sense of some other oddities in the iridium layer. In the Gulf of Mexico, close to the impact site, iridium is found at a weak concentration, just one part per billion, says Harting. Yet farther away in Denmark, higher concentrations of iridium are found. "This doesn’t really make sense," he said, unless, of course, the impact and iridium layer are not related.

All this begs the question: What, then, created the worldwide iridium layer, if not a humongous impact? One possibility is that Earth and perhaps the entire solar system was passing through a thick cloud of cosmic dust 65 million years ago.

"You probably have a time when lots of meteorites are coming down and never touching the ground," said Harting. Instead they burned up as "shooting stars," depositing their iridium in the atmosphere. There it was quickly rained out, washed into lakes and oceans and buried in contemporary sediments.

Another burning question is whether the massive impact - which undoubtedly occurred and was certainly catastrophic - is responsible for any extinction at all. Maybe, answers Harting. There is the case of the ammonites, the once ubiquitous nautilus-like sea creatures that died out at about the same time as the Chicxulub impact and before the K-T boundary, he said.

But whether the impact was the ammonite killer is not at all clear, according to Harting. Early models of the Chicxulub impact called on a "nuclear winter" scenario, in which a dust-shrouded world went cold and plant life died away for years, to cause mass extinctions. Yet sun-loving animals like crocodiles and turtles appear to have glided right through without any ill effects. And that is, perhaps the silver lining to Chicxulub’s fall from the status of most-massive-of-all-murderers: Even giant impacts aren’t necessarily global catastrophes.

WHEN & WHERE
Backbone of the Americas – Patagonia to Alaska
Centro de Congresos
Mendoza, Argentina
Monday, 3 April

Ann Cairns | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.geosociety.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Scientists shed light on carbon's descent into the deep Earth
19.07.2017 | European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

nachricht Thawing permafrost releases old greenhouse gas
19.07.2017 | GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>