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A steaming cauldron follows the dinosaurs’ demise

Hydrothermal minerals (analcime and dachiardite) in 1 centimeter cavity within impact rocks that fill the Chicxulub crater. Credit: David A. Kring A new study reveals the Chicxulub impact crater may have harbored a vast and long-lived hydrothermal system after the catastrophic impact event linked to the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

The Chicxulub impact crater, roughly 180 kilometers in diameter, is the best preserved large impact structure on Earth and a target for exploration of several impact-related phenomena. In 2016, a research team supported by the International Ocean Discovery Program and International Continental Scientific Drilling Program drilled into the crater, reaching a depth of 1,335 meters (> 1 kilometer) below the modern-day sea floor. The team recovered rock core samples which can be used to study the thermal and chemical modification of Earth’s crust caused by the impact. The core samples show the crater hosted an extensive hydrothermal system that chemically and mineralogically modified more than 100,000 cubic kilometers of Earth’s crust.

The lead author, Universities Space Research Association’s David Kring at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), explains, “Imagine an undersea Yellowstone Caldera, but one that is several times larger and produced by the staggering impact event that […]

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