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Google Maps Shows Where Impact Killed Off Dinos

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First Posted: Dec 11, 2013 06:18 PM EST
An artist's interpretation of the impact that killed off the world's dino population
(Photo : Reuters)
Google Earth - Campeche Escarpment
(Photo : Google Earth)

Thanks to Google, now you can see what's left of the catastrophic asteroid or comet believed to have hit the earth and killed off the dinosaurs.

Created with multi-beam sonar technology, the first detailed map of the Campeche Escarpment is accessible by anyone through Google Maps and Google Earth.

At a meeting in San Francisco this week of the American Geophysical Union, researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are presenting evidence that remnants from the world-changing impact are exposed today along the Campeche Escarpment --- an immense underwater cliff in the southern Gulf of Mexico that scientists suspect was left by an impact about 65 million years ago, when an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow body of water near what is now Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.

It's believed the ancient impact carved out a huge crater, over 160 kilometers across. However, buried under hundreds of meters of debris and almost a kilometer of marine sediment, the crater is nearly invisible today.

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Even though fallout from the impact has been detected in rocks throughout the world, little research has actually been done on rocks close to the impact site, since, for one thing, they are buried. All of the existing impact samples from the crater's vicinity came from deep boreholes drilled on the Yucatán Peninsula.

Last March, an international team of led by MBARI's Charlie Paull created the Campeche Escarpment map with sonar equipment on the research ship Falkor. The team used multi-beam sonars on the research vessel, operated by the Schmidt Ocean Institute, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

A MBARI press release explains Paull has long suspected rocks linked to the impact might be exposed along the Campeche Escarpment, a 600-kilometer-long underwater cliff northwest of the Yucatán that is one of the steepest and tallest underwater features on Earth --- comparable to a wall of the Grand Canyon.

Based on the newly-created maps, Paull believes that rocks formed before, during and after the impact are all exposed along different parts of this underwater cliff and provide a sequential record of the events that have occurred.

The Campeche Escarpment maps, said MBARI scientists, are expected to usher in a new era in research about one of the largest extinction events in our planet's history.

Already, MBARI teams and other institutions are using the maps to plan additional studies in the little-known area Campeche region.

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