The blood-warm seas of the Gulf of Mexico teem with life. As this lost world of dinosaurs and outsize insects squawks and buzzes and whirs to life, an asteroid the size of a mountain is hurtling toward Earth at about 40, miles 64, kilometers an hour. For a few fleeting moments, a fireball that appears far bigger and brighter than the sun streaks through the sky. An instant later, the asteroid slams into Earth with an explosive yield estimated at over trillion tons of TNT. The event sets off a chain of global catastrophes that wipe out 80 percent of life on Earth—including most of the dinosaurs.
This apocalyptic tale has been described in countless books and magazines ever since the asteroid impact theory was first put forth in This ring is where the shocked Earth rebounded in the seconds following the impact, and the swelling formed a large circular structure within the crater walls. By studying its topsy-turvy geology, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the phenomenal forces unleashed that day. What is already known would beggar the imaginations of Hollywood scriptwriters.
Day of the Dinosaurs
Indeed, if you were near enough to see it, you were dead, says Gareth Collins , a lecturer on planetary science at Imperial College who helped develop the program. Nine seconds after impact, an observer at that distance would have been roasted by a blast of thermal radiation. Trees, grass, and shrubs would have spontaneously burst into flame, and anyone present would have suffered instant third-degree burns over their entire bodies.
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