Apr 19, 2019 | Updated: 10:42 AM EDT

Getting to the Core of Extinction—Researchers Return to Crater That Caused Millions of Dinosaurs to Die

Apr 13, 2015 03:24 PM EDT

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It's no big surprise as to why we exited the Jurassic period. The dinosaurs and their lineage ended with a shocking crash when a catastrophic asteroid plummeted to Earth, and dust and debris blocked out the Sun. But now researchers are hoping that by going back to the site of the impact they may be able to learn a bit more about ancient biological and geological processes, and perhaps even what cosmic changes led to the asteroid's impact.

Known as the Chicxulub Crater, near Mérida, Mexico, the site of the impact has changed very little since it crash-landed 65.5 million years ago. But now a team of researchers plan to get to the core of the crater-literally. The 125-mile-wide crater may hold many secrets of the past, and now scientists plan to drill 5,000 feet below the surface to uncover 10 to 15 million years of information back from the past. And while the international team of researchers have been pushing for the project for many years, it appears that they will only have to wait one more, as the mission is slated to start next Spring, 2016.

The $10 million mission in collaboration with the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, will offer the researchers an unprecedented view, made possible courtesy of new technology. "The Chicxulub impact crater has been a remarkable scientific opportunity for the 20 years since it's been discovered" researcher with the project and the University of Texas, Austin, Sean Gulick says. And this new opportunity to unearth the core, may provide far more answers than researchers could have ever imagined. "We think that the peak ring is the record of the material that rebounded and splashed outward [after the impact]."

Now thanks to the first subsurface images from an offshore location off of the crater, researchers believe that they will begin their dig offshore in search of the core, near the center of the crater which is named after a nearby seaside village.

The researchers believe that their models have created an accurate view of the conditions surrounding the impact and the crater, however, soon they will have rock-hard evidence to back their claims. They believe that aside from providing a view into the death of millions of species that more recent layers of rock could reveal just how long it took for life to return to the area-an important, yet missing, layer to our past.

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