The flaming space rock that slammed into Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, struck at the worst possible angle (for the dinosaurs, that is), new research suggests.
Colliding with an enormous, fast-moving cosmic projectile would have been disastrous under just about any circumstances. But this giant space rock also hit the planet at a steep angle, causing the “deadliest possible” outcome by releasing much more gas and pulverized rock than it would have with a shallower approach, researchers recently discovered.
Scientists modeled the path of the meteor as it hurtled toward Earth, creating the first 3D simulations to trace the event from start to finish: from the asteroid’s approach, to the crash, to the formation of the giant crater in its entirety. The asteroid closed in on its target from the northeast and struck at an angle of about 60 degrees above the horizon, the study found, maximizing the quantity of gas spewed into the atmosphere — with catastrophic results for global climate.