Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 09:46 AM EDT

Scientists Digging Deep Into Dinosaur Killing Crater

Apr 13, 2015 05:02 PM EDT


The catastrophic impact that ended the reign of dinosaurs on Earth has long been of interest to scientists around the world. In an attempt to learn more about what happened 65 million years ago, scientists plan to drill some 5,000 feet deep into the Chicxulub Crater, the lasting scar from this world changing event.

Scientists plan to dig down 5,000 feet to bring up a giant core in an effort to look 10 to 15 million years into the past. This endeavor would result in the first offshore core taken from near the center of the crater, which is named for a nearby seaside village located on the Yucatan Peninsula.

An international team of scientists met last week in Merida, Mexico, located inside the 125 mile wide crater, to discuss their plans for the project that is set to begin in the spring of 2016.

"The Chicxulub impact crater has been a remarkable scientific opportunity for the 20 years since it's been discovered," said Sean Gulick, of The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Geophysics.

For the first time, scientists have subsurface images from the offshore part of the crater, so they can pinpoint the perfect spot for sampling. They chose a spot along the crater's peak ring, which is a rin of mountainlike structures around the center of the crater. By sampling in this area, researchers hope to get a clearer picture of ancient biological and geological processes.

Scientists believe that when a large rock smashes into the Earth at a high enough velocity that the crust temporarily acts like a type of liquid, first forming a transient crater much like the identation you see on a lake after a rock is thrown in, and the center rebounds or splashes upward and then outward. "We think the peak ring is the record of the material that rebounded and splashed outward," Gulick said.

Chicxulub is the only impact crater on Earth that has been linked to a mass extinction event. Because of this fact, the samples the scientists take could provide more information about that extinction and what came after it. More recent layers could hold traces of life that would provide the scientists clues about how long it took for life to return to the area after the impact.

The project is a collaboration between the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program and is expected to cost roughly $10 million.

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