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A previously undiscovered asteroid crater off the coast of West Africa may hold some answers about how the dinosaurs became extinct.
Approximately 66 million years ago, a large asteroid, whose crater is called Chicxulub, crashed into Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period, causing the destruction of the dinosaurs. However, researchers have now found a new asteroid crater off the coast of West Africa that hit Earth around the same time, according to a study published Thursday by Progress of science.
Named Nadir Crater, it is located off the coast of Guinea, West Africa, and is 300 m under the sea and 400 km from the nearest land with a diameter of 8.5 km. Although Nadir is not as large as Chicxulub, an analysis of the age of nearby fossils indicates that it is very similar in age.
The discovery was made by Dr. Uisdean Nicholson, a professor at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK. Originally, he was examining data from a seismic survey when he came across evidence from the crater.
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“These surveys are like an ultrasound of the Earth. I’ve probably spent the last 20 years interpreting them, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dr Nicholson. he told the BBC. “The Nadir shape is diagnostic of an asteroid impact. It has a raised rim surrounding a central uplift area and then layers of debris extending outward.”
Some other researchers, such as Prof. Sean Gulick, have suggested that Nadir may have crashed into Earth at the same time as the Chicxulub crater, but scientists can’t make that determination until further inspections of the African crater are done.
“A much smaller cousin or sister doesn’t necessarily add to what we know about the extinction of the dinosaurs, but it does add to our understanding of the astronomical event that was Chicxulub,” Gulick told the BBC.
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The asteroid that caused the fall of the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico is 12 km long, creating a depression 200 km wide. The crash triggered destructive firestorms and tsunamis that put Earth into an ice age, killing much of the world’s species.
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