The Chicxulub impactor (// CHEEK-shə-loob), also known as the K/Pg impactor and (more speculatively) as the Chicxulub asteroid, was an asteroid or other celestial body some 11 to 81 kilometres (7 to 50 mi) in diameter and having a mass between 1.0×1015 and 4.6×1017 kg, which struck the Earth at a velocity of roughly 20 kilometers per second at an angle of just under 60 degrees (although originally thought to be shallower) at the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, creating the Chicxulub crater. It impacted a few kilometres from the present-day town of Chicxulub in Mexico, after which the impactor and its crater are named. Because the estimated date of the object's impact and the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–Pg boundary) coincide, there is a scientific consensus that its impact was the cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event resulting in the sudden mass extinction of three-quarters of all plant and animal species on Earth, including all non-avian dinosaurs. In October 2019, researchers reported that the event rapidly acidified the oceans producing ecological collapse and long-lasting effects on the climate, and, accordingly, was a key reason for the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.
Several competing models for the impactor's origin exist, and for its relationship to other asteroids that continue to exist in the Solar System. In September 2007, William F. Bottke, David Vokrouhlický, and David Nesvorný proposed an origin for the impactor in an article published in Nature. They argued that a collision in the asteroid belt 160 million years ago resulted in the Baptistina family of asteroids, the largest surviving member of which is 298 Baptistina. They proposed that the Chicxulub impactor was an asteroid member of this group, referring to the large amount of carbonaceous material present in microscopic fragments at the site, suggesting that it was a member of a rare class of asteroids called carbonaceous chondrites, like Baptistina. According to Bottke, the Chicxulub impactor was a fragment of a much larger parent body about 170 km (110 mi) across, with the impacting body being around 6 km (4 mi) in diameter.
However, in 2011 new data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer revised the date of the collision which created the Baptistina family to about 80 million years ago, casting doubt on the hypothesis, as typically the process of resonance and collision of an asteroid takes many tens of millions of years.
A study in 2020 showed that the asteroid came from the northeast at a steep angle. This maximized the amount of climate-changing gas that was launched into the atmosphere and was one of the deadliest possible scenarios. The study says that their 3D simulations showed that the impactor hit at a 40 to 60 degree angle.
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- The article by Nicholas M. Short, Sr. appears to have moved, but the image above does not appear to have moved with it. See Crater Morphology Some Characteristic Impact Structures at fas.org, Accessed December 9, 2015.
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