Nearly 65 million years ago, a massive extinction event occurred after a miles-wide asteroid collided with Earth, erasing more than 70 percent of the planet’s species. Now, in what sounds like a sequel to Michael Bay’s Armageddon, a team of researchers plan to drill into the Chicxulub crater, commonly believed to be the epicenter of this event, in the hopes of learning more about Earth’s date with destiny.
The immediate goal is to secure a mile-deep core sample from the crater and then move on to Chicxulub’s peak ring. According to Sean Gulick of the University of Texas, the peak ring should provide researchers with a wealth of information about how life persevered after such a catastrophic event.
“Was it the specialists that came back first, the generalists?” asked Gulick. “Is there any clue to what organisms repopulated first, as opposed to what the environmental consequences were for the ocean?”
Usable samples are expected as early as next week, with the entire operation lasting until early summer. The team is going to use a 137-foot craft called the Liftboat Myrtle, and dig 5,000 feet through the seafloor. A particular area of interest will be the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which is the last time Earth had a sharp elevation in CO2 levels. Gulick said CO2 levels are rising on present day Earth, making the information valuable as to how some species survived that period.
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