Dinosaur killer asteroid research says source in solar system

It would appear that we're a bit closer to the source of the asteroid that killed all the dinosaurs on Earth. Researchers from Southwest Research Institute published a paper this week with research on material samples harvested from the crater dated back to the event that changed the course of life on Earth. Perhaps most surprising among the details shared by the researchers was the high frequency of elements similar to those found in other asteroids that hit the earth relatively frequently, meaning... this asteroid wasn't quite as rare as we might've thought.

The rock that effectively ended the lives of millions of dinosaurs on our planet 66 million years ago hit the Earth in what's now known as the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. This estimated 6-mile-wide hunk hit the Earth and formed the 90-mile wide Chicxulub crater.

This most recent bit of research was done with samples from drill cores as well as rock samples found within the impact range. Researchers found that the samples were all from the carbonaceous chondrite class of meteorite. It just so happened that the one carbonaceous chondrite that formed this crater 66-million years ago was much, much larger than any other that's hit the planet since.

The team used NASA's Pleaides Supercomputer to track 130,000 model asteroids and their evolutions as they leave our solar system's main asteroid belt. Samples pointed to an origin in the outer half of our solar system's main asteroid belt.

Based on calculations done with the Pleaides Supercomputer based on what we know of confirmed asteroid impacts on Earth, it now appears that massive asteroids like the dinosaur apocalypse asteroid hit our planet about once every 250 million years on average.

So, if we're assuming that all life on Earth will be destroyed by another asteroid of this kind, from our own asteroid belt, calculations suggest we might have another 180+ million years left. Another Chicxulub impactor could... also be just around the corner – but every time humanity learns more about an extinction level event like this, we stand a better chance of surviving.

For more information on this study, see Dark primitive asteroids account for a large share of K/Pg-scale impacts on Earth as authored by David Nesvorny, William F Bottke, and Simone Marchi. This paper can be found in the scientific publication Icarus, Volume 368, 1 November 2021, 114621, available online July 2021 with code DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2021.114621 with Elsevier / Science Direct.