Press Release

Asteroids and Dinosaurs and Jungles, Oh My! Join The Planetary Planetary Society’s Interactive Expedition to Belize

By SpaceRef Editor
January 16, 2001
Filed under ,

From January 16 to 28, 2001, The Planetary Society invites armchair
explorers worldwide to join an expedition to Belize — via the Internet —
in search of what killed the dinosaurs. The Belize Diary will link Internet
users with scientists in the field who are searching for evidence of the
asteroid impact that many believe ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million
years ago.

Scientists and volunteer field workers will post daily expedition reports
and images in the Belize Diary on the Society web site at
http://planetary.org. They will also select daily questions to answer from
those that are submitted by e-mail to [email protected]

This fourth Society expedition to Belize will continue the quest to build a
more complete picture of what really happened when a comet or asteroid
collided with Earth off the coast of the Yucatan. The resultant Chicxulub
crater is regarded by many researchers as the smoking gun for what caused
dinosaurs to disappear from our planet. When that asteroid collided with
Earth, it ejected millions of tons of debris into the atmosphere, ignited
wildfires, generated tsunamis, and probably altered our planet’s
environment so that the dinosaurs, and most other living things, could not
survive.

Team leaders Adriana Ocampo of NASA and Kevin Pope of Geo Eco Research will
lead a group of geological adventurers into the jungles of Belize to look
for further evidence of the impact. Past Society expeditions to the region
have collected samples of ejecta blanket material — debris blasted from
the Chicxulub crater when the asteroid crashed just off the coast of the
Yucatan. The crater, now buried under the accumulated sediment of millions
of years, is 200 to 300 kilometers across (about 125 to 190 miles across).

This year’s expedition has numerous scientific objectives:

  • To determine how far from the point of impact debris fell in Quintana
    Roo, Mexico and Northern and Central Belize.

  • To identify and map the distribution of material deformed by the
    explosion (i.e. Pook’s pebbles).

  • Determine the stratigraphical relationships between ejecta (debris
    falling from impact) deposits in Quintana Roo, Mexico and Northern and
    Central Belize.

  • To collect samples for detailed laboratory analysis.

  • To perform a survey with a magnetometer to determine the extent of ejecta
    blanket and look for hydrothermal deposits.

  • To measure the size of cobbles and pebbles in ejecta to determine the
    effect of atmospheric sorting during ballistic transport.

  • To look for fossils to determine the age of rocks under, over, and in the
    ejecta blanket.

    Discoveries from previous Belize expeditions include:

  • The identification of a new species of crab that went extinct at the end
    of the Cretaceous period, named Carcineretes planetarius in honor of the
    Planetary Society;

  • Identification of shocked quartz in northern Belize;

  • Identification in Albion in northern Belize of an unusually high
    concentration of iridium at the boundary layer between the Cretateous and
    Tertiary periods;

  • Identification of possible condensate material from the impact’s vapor
    plume, including Pook’s pebbles.

  • Giant ejecta boulders 8 meters across; and

  • A significant outcrop of ejecta material in Mexico, the closest of all
    known samples to the point of impact.

    While this is the Planetary Society’s fourth expedition to Belize, it is
    the fifth sent by the Society to study evidence of the Chicxulub impact.
    Another expedition went to Italy in 1996 to study core samples from that
    same time period.

    -o0o-

    CONTACT INFORMATION:

    For more information, or to establish a web link with the Belize Diary,
    please contact Susan Lendroth at (626)793-5100 ext 214 or by e-mail at
    s[email protected]

    THE PLANETARY SOCIETY:

    Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society
    in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the
    search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140
    countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world.

    The Planetary Society

    65 N. Catalina Ave.

    Pasadena, CA 91106-2301

    Tel: (626) 793-5100

    Fax: (626) 793-5528

    E-Mail: [email protected]

  • SpaceRef staff editor.