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Wobbly Planet: Earth's Surface Acted Like Liquid Upon Impact With Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid

Nov 24, 2016 02:19 AM EST

The powerful asteroid that wiped off the dinosaurs on Earth 66 millions years ago caused the planet's surface to vaporize and act like a liquid, a new study reveals.

According to the study published in the journal Science, the impact from the giant asteroid caused the rocky surface of the planet to act like it was liquid. The asteroid, according to Sen Gulick, a geophysicist from the University of Texas in Austin, was so big that it created a 60-mile wide hole. It even caused rocks to bounce so high, as high as Mount Everest, and then fall back to form mountain rings, NPR reports. The said asteroid impact happened quickly in just five minutes.

The researchers came up with the result by drilling samples from mountain rings located in the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, the believed impact site. Gulick said that the impact is like what happens when you toss a rock into water, only in a bigger scale.

"So things collapse in from the sides, fairly shallow, and in that model, this ring of peaks are created by shallow material kind of moving towards the center and being uplifted," Gulick explained. "It makes a hole initially as the rock penetrates into the pond. And the sides will sort of collapse inward toward the hole while the center kind of rebounds up like a big water droplet rising up."

"If you picture all of this happening in a slightly slower-moving fluid than water would be, you can envision that the center that rebounds upwards and splashes upwards would kind of collapse outwards. So just as the sides are falling in, this rebounding center is sort of collapsing outwards to create ... this ring of mountains, made from material that ultimately came from fairly deep," he added.

Gulick noted that despite rocks behaving like liquid, they are still in solid form but have experienced so much damage that they temporarily lose cohesion. He then said that the fluid-like process gives new understanding on how impact process on the moon or other planets happen and clues in finding life outside Earth.

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