An international team of researchers will drill into the Chicxulub Crater off Mexico’s coast, which was created by an asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs 66 million years ago. They aim to study the impact and the destruction the asteroid caused, especially the peak ring at the centre of the impact hole.

“We want to know where the rocks that make up this peak ring come from,” says co-lead investigator Joanna Morgan, a professor from Imperial College London. “Are they from the lower, mid or upper crust? Knowing that will help us understand how large craters are formed, and that’s important for us to be able to say what was the total impact energy, and what was the total volume of rock that was excavated and put into the Earth’s stratosphere to cause the environmental damage.”

The team will be using the Myrtle liftboat as its drilling platform. Before reaching the rocks, they need to face the Gulf of Mexico’s thick ocean floor mud. They think that the task will be accomplished within two months, just before June.


Chicxulub Crater

This shaded relief image of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula show a subtle, but unmistakable, indication of the Chicxulub impact crater. Wikimedia/NASA/JPL-Caltech

An 18-kilometre wide asteroid created a hole that measures 100 kilometres wide and 30 km deep. The sides of this bowl-shaped impact hole collapsed, creating a crater that rebounded and collapse afterward and left a peak ring.

However, the researchers believe that the event could have allowed other species that survived to thrive. They explain that this asteroid impact zone used to be a shallow sea area and the impact hole got filled with water.

Hot water and leaking chemicals transformed the condition in this area into a similar condition found in the volcanic ridge in the center of the Atlantic Ocean. Through samples, they hope they would answer this problem.

“So it’s possible we may encounter some exotic life in the fractured rocks we drill,” adds Morgan. “This is very interesting for Chicxulub, but it’s also fascinating to consider in terms of the early Earth or even Mars. On the early Earth, there would have been many more, larger impacts. We think life may well have originated in impact craters.”