November 9, 2009
Written by: Jessica Behnham
It could be the plot of a mega disaster movie. A huge asteroid, nearly 40 km in diameter, comes hurtling towards earth. It strikes the planet, off the western coast of India, near Bombay High, creating a vast crater, 500 km wide. Temperatures in the area rise rapidly, reaching several thousand degrees Celsius and releasing more energy than the world’s entire nuclear arsenal. Soon enough, this energy starts devastating the atmosphere, rupturing the thin shell of air, water, soil and surface rock that nurtures and sustains life. The result is destruction and mass extinction.
The scenario above is not the figment of some scriptwriter’s imagination. Instead, it is the essence of a theory put forward by Sankar Chatterjee, a professor at Texas Tech University, to explain why dinosaurs became extinct almost 65 million years ago. Chatterjee’s hypothesis is that the crater, named Shiva, fast forwarded the extinction of dinosaurs. The jury is still out on his theory. But it renews the focus on that great unsolved mystery: Why did dinosaurs die out?