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  • Writer's pictureSiheli Siyathra

The Day Dinosaurs Died

One of the greatest illusions in life is continuity. 66 million years ago, the continuity of dinosaurs had been going on for about 165 million years already - and it didn’t seem this would change anytime soon. The world was warm and pleasant and most of the land was covered in lush green forests. Earth was home to an amazing diversity: trees, flowers, ferns, and trillions of animals. Dinosaurs existed in all shapes and sizes. It was an ancient paradise, a world full of life. 66 million years ago, life was just like it had been the day before. Until a tiny, tiny detail changed in the night sky.

If dinosaurs were watching the sky, they might have noticed a new star. A tiny dot that gets bigger and brighter for many weeks. Until one fateful day, when it begins to look like another small moon in the night sky. And then, it disappears as it dips into Earth’s shadow. For a few more hours, the illusion of continuity is upheld, until it was not to be anymore. In the morning, the object suddenly appears again. Now as large as the sun in the sky and growing every moment, the asteroid heads toward the coast near Yucatan, Peninsula. Within seconds, the asteroid makes contact with the shallow coast and bedrock below. The energy of tons of nuclear weapons is released as the asteroid vaporizes.

Bedrock melts into seething hot plasma at tens of thousands of degrees Celsius. The thermal radiation from the explosion travels at the speed of light and immediately burns everything within 1500 km. The Earth’s crust flows away like liquid from the impact site. The ocean is pushed back for hundreds of kilometers. As the crust flows back, it forms a mountain that is about 10 km high. An incredible amount of material is blasted into space. A magnitude 11 earthquake hits the planet. It’s so insanely strong that in India, it might have shaken gigantic lava fields and caused volcanic eruptions that would have lasted for 30,000 years. Even on the side of Earth opposite the impact, the ground moves by several meters. Nobody would sleep through this day. A shock wave travels in every direction. It’s so powerful that it’s the equivalent of hyper hurricanes in Gas Giants. In middle America, every living thing is shredded to pieces and catapulted thousands of kilometers away. The displaced oceans return, and the temporary lava mountain collapses. A ring of tsunamis as high as one kilometer heads in all directions. The waves drown many coastlines.

15 hours after impact:

The remains of the asteroid which were blasted into space start to fall back. When thousands of pieces of rock are falling through the upper atmosphere, the lower atmosphere heats up. In this case, the atmosphere either heated up to hundreds of degrees for two minutes or up to thousands of degrees for one minute. Either way, the immense heat and falling rock wiped out many species. In a few hours, massive wildfires were probably burning around the globe. Some of them may have burned for months, turning Earth into a horrifying hell-ish version of itself. As the day of disaster draws to an end, many of the dinosaurs are already dead. But the worst is yet to come.

1 day after impact:

The gigantic vaporized plume of material reaches the upper atmosphere and covers the whole globe. Together with the soot from the burning planet, Earth sinks into deep darkness with only the fires illuminating the scene. Whatever plants that survive the firestorm would die without sunlight. Temperatures crash as much as 25 degrees celsius.

For months and years, the planet would be a hostile, deadly place. The unexpected global winter would last for decades. At least 75% of all life forms have just vanished from existence. And, as the winter eventually ends, the continuity that lasted for millions of years is no more. The Era of the Dinosaurs is over. Just like that.

Eventually, from the cold ashes, a few survivors emerge: birds that are direct descendants of dinosaurs and mammals that would eventually become the dominant beings of the world.

Without the asteroid, who knows what life would look like on Earth now. Without that sudden disruption of dinosaur continuity, we might have never had the chance to become what we are today.

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