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65-million-year-old asteroid impact triggered a global hail of carbon beads
Date:5/5/2008

id. "The first appearance of the carbon cenospheres defines the onset of the industrial revolution."

The scientists concluded the cenospheres could have been created by a new process, the violent pulverization of the Earth's carbon-rich crust.

Geologists do believe the Earth burned in spots as molten rock and super-hot ash fell out of the sky and onto flammable plant matter. But the charcoal-ized products of these fires only appear in some places on Earth, and are more often found near the asteroid impact site of Chicxulub Crater, just west of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Some geologists had thought all carbon particles resulting from the impact was ash from global scale forest fires, but the present research strongly contradicts that assumption.

The scientists examined rock samples from eight marine locations in New Zealand, Italy, Denmark and Spain. They also examined carbon-rich particles from five non-marine locations in the U.S. and Canada. Following chemical and microscopic analysis, the researchers concluded the particles were carbon cenospheres, similar to the ones produced by industrial combustion.

The scientists also found that the farther the sample site was from the Chicxulub Crater, the smaller the cenospheres tended to be. That observation is consistent with the expectation that particles were produced by the asteroid impact, since once the particles are ejected, heavier particles should fall back to Earth sooner (and travel shorter distances) than lighter particles.

Last, the scientists estimated the total mass of carbon cenospheres ejected by the asteroid collision, assuming a global distribution, to be perhaps as much as 900 quadrillion kilograms. Whether or not the carbon cenospheres are truly ubiquitous, however, needs further corroboration.

"There are still clues to unravel about the events occurring around the time of the impact," Brassell said. "And there are aspects of the Earth's natu
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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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