Over sixty million years ago, the Earth converged with an asteroid's flight path and it landed in present-day Mexico's east coast. This resulted in over seventy percent of life on Earth to go extinct, which included dinosaurs. The devastating asteroid left behind the Chicxulub crater.
Recently, a supercomputer was used to simulate that asteroid's impact by a team of researchers. This simulation has shed light on how the asteroid that left the Chicxulub crater behind caused life on Earth to experience mass extinction.
The Reason Behind The 3D Simulations
In London's Imperial College, a group of researchers carried out the simulations while they used facilities designed for high performance computing, which Hewlett Packard Enterprise provided for them. The researchers mainly focused on finding out the asteroid's trajectory and impact angle, and they tried to be as precise as possible with their measurements. The measurements would reveal how the asteroid hitting the Earth affected the environment surrounding the point of impact.
The research team considered various angles for the impact and different speeds the asteroid was going when it hit the Earth. The supercomputer simulated this and created 3D simulations of how it would take place and what would happen.
Then, with the results from the simulations, the researchers compared it to the expansive Chicxulub crater's geophysical features. The Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico is where you'll find the crater that the asteroid's impact left behind.
The simulations that gave a result consistent with the real-life Chicxulub crater showed that the asteroid hit the Earth at an angle of around 60 degrees. What happened after the impact is common knowledge. Earthquakes, firestorms, tsunamis and hurricanes were happening all over the planet, and that is when most life on Earth went extinct.
Thought to be a 90-degree impact angle, which would have been better for life on Earth, was actually a 60-degree impact angle that was worse for Earth's living creatures. The angle caused significant damage due to the amount of rock it caused to eject out of the ground and gases to come out.
How Scientists Simulated The Asteroid's Impact
The research team reached their conclusion using about hundreds of simulations. A supercomputer which you can find in the University of Leicester processed the simulations. It's called the HPE Apollo 6000 Gen10.
The older simulations done before were only in two dimensions because of limitations on computing power. This limitation only allowed research on head-on impacts.
The HPE supercomputer let the team of researchers run 3D simulations that could simulate impacts in three dimensions easier than others before it. Simulating the impacts in 3D takes more computing power than simulating them in 2D.
There are already existing 3D simulations, but they only simulate a short while after the asteroid's impact. The simulations that already existed focused on the immediate aftermath, and on the gas and dust that immediately followed the hit.
The facilities owned by DiRAC are capable of high-performance computing, which lets the researchers put together what happened before, during, and after the impact.
The research team can use the findings and their capability to use the Apollo 6000 to run more simulations to make it easier for everyone to understand surfaces of other planetary bodies. The supercomputers provided to the researchers can help simulate planet formation and gravitational waves.