Scientists Believe Massive Ocean Crater is ‘Related’ to Dinosaur-Killing Meteorite

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Science Photo Library/Roger Harris/Getty Images)

A new discovery of an ocean crater could lead to more information on the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs. The finding was first published in Science Advances in August. It featured data and discoveries from the Nadir crater, which is named for the nearby volcano Nadir Seamount. Turns out, the crater is of the same age as the Chicxulub impact. This is what killed the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period.

The question is if the Nadir crater actually has any relation to the Chicxulub impact. If scientists can confirm some type of link, it would be an incredible scientific find. Nadir was studied using “seismic reflection,” which is similar to an ultrasound. The practice sends pressure waves through the ocean floor and water and records the energy that’s reflected back.

Scientists collected and studied the data in 2020, and published it this August. The team came across the crater, which is 6.2 miles wide and several hundred meters deep. The crater’s features were conducive to an impact event. Deposits outside of the crater even look like ejecta, which is sediment and material that is expelled from a crater during a collision.

According to Science Alert, researchers considered the possibility that the crater was made by some other event. It could have been an underwater volcano collapsing, a salt pillar below the seabed, or an explosion of gas. But, none of those options matched the particular geometry of the crater.

Researchers made computer models of the crater after studying the data. They recreated the impact to see if they could match the dimensions of the crater. What they came up with is that the crater best fits an asteroid that is 400 meters across impacting an ocean 800 meters deep.

The impact would result in a water column 800 meters thick, and the asteroid and much of the sediment would be instantly vaporized. The shockwaves from the impact would result in a magnitude 6.5 or 7 earthquake, as well as underwater landslides and tsunami waves. Additionally, there would be an air blast larger than anything ever heard on Earth, and the released energy would be 1,000 times the recent Tonga eruption.

In other words, the results would be catastrophic. What researchers find fascinating about this crater is that it is the same age as the Chicxulub event. Give or take one million years. The team has three theories connecting Nadir to Chicxulub.

One, Nadir could have formed from the break-up of a “parent asteroid.” Potentially, the larger fragment caused Chicxulub while the smaller fragment formed Nadir. This is the “little sister” hypothesis. The second hypothesis, or the “little cousin,” posits that Nadir formed by an “impact cluster,” a collision in an early asteroid belt. Lastly, this could all just be a coincidence. Researchers are still putting together the pieces to figure out where this crater came from.