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How the Chicxulub impact made acid rain

Landsat data show the trough of the Chicxulub impact crater near Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

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Acid rain from the Chicxulub asteroid impact, which happened roughly 65 million years ago and is linked to the death of the dinosaurs, could have created a mass extinction in the oceans, new experiments show.

Using lasers to accelerate materials to asteroid-like impact velocities, scientists found that the sulfur in rock from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula near the Chicxulub site could have vaporized into sulfur trioxide. The compound would have reacted quickly with atmospheric water vapor, creating airborne sulfuric acid particles. The acid particles could have clung to heavier particles ejected from the impact, making acid rain that would have killed most of the marine life living close to the water’s surface, the team reports March 9 in Nature Geoscience.

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