Science Class Interacts with Researchers of the Chicxulub Crater


Mrs. Seff’s eighth grade Earth Science class was able to participate in a live video event with the Chicxulub Crater Expedition Team as they analyzed core samples from the Chicxulub Crater! The Chicxulub Crater is an impact crater buried beneath the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, near the town of Chicxulub, and is said to be the cause of the dinosaur extinction. Mrs. Seff’s class joined researchers “live” by video from a laboratory located in Bremen, Germany, where researchers are now beginning to analyze the core samples.  A children’s author, Kevin Kurtz, who is working with the team, carried a camera around the facility so the students could see and hear the researchers in action while they explored samples from the crater.  Then, two researchers with the team sat down and answered individual student questions about their work. "We were joined by Dr. David Kring, an Impact Petrologist from the Universities Space Research Association and the Lunar and Planetary Institute that provides services for NASA, and Dr. Ligia Perez-Cruz a Geochemist from the National University of Mexico," said Mrs. Seff. "The students had been assigned online readings about the expedition during previous classes and homework assignments so they were ready with great questions for the team!"

The impact event that created the Chicxulub Crater coincides with the mass extinctions at the end of the Cretaceous Period, approximately 66 million years ago. The impact was a catastrophic event that likely triggered a large explosion, fireballs raining down through the atmosphere, mega-tsunamis, forest fires, earthquakes, ocean acidification, and the equivalent of a nuclear winter, which together would have impacted life around the world.  It is estimated that about 75% of species went extinct at that time, including plants to plankton along with many dinosaur species.

The Chicxulub (pronounced “chick-shoe-lube”) crater is 180 kilometers (110 miles) in diameter and is partially on land on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and partially underneath the Gulf of Mexico.  The actual asteroid was thought to be at least 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide.  The expedition team drilled more than 1334 meters below the seafloor (about 4,375 feet) to collect core samples.  The primary scientific objectives of the expedition are to better understand: how large impact craters are formed; the catastrophic results of a large impact from an astronomical object that results in extinctions; how life comes back within an impact crater, with a particular focus on the microbes that are first to re-colonize and return life to the crater.

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