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Deep Companion

November 14, 2022

The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs might have had some help. A crater discovered off the coast of Africa formed at about the same time as the one gouged by the dinosaur killer. That suggests they could have been companions — perhaps formed by pieces of a larger asteroid.

Much of the life on Earth died when a miles-wide space rock slammed into our planet 66 million years ago. The impact formed a crater in the Gulf of Mexico. Known as Chicxulub, it’s more than a hundred miles wide. Debris that was blasted into the air blotted out the Sun and caused acid rain around the globe.

A couple of years ago, researchers were studying the floor of the Atlantic Ocean when they discovered a new crater near Africa. It’s only five or six miles wide. The asteroid that created it was about a quarter of a mile in diameter. The impact would have produced a massive fireball, vaporized rocks and ocean water, and triggered tsunamis.

The crater formed at about the same time as Chicxulub. So the asteroids that created them could have been companions — perhaps fragments of a single asteroid that broke apart when it reached Earth. Or perhaps the parent asteroid broke apart much earlier, with the two pieces hitting Earth at different times. Or perhaps it’s just a coincidence, and the two asteroids were unrelated.

Scientists plan to drill into the crater to learn exactly when it formed — telling us whether a dinosaur killer had some help.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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