Last month, we learned that researchers excavating North Dakota's Tanis fossil site found an incredibly well-preserved leg of a dinosaur. The creature—and others at the site—were likely killed by the impact of the 12 kilometer-wide Chicxulub asteroid that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago and eradicated 80% of Earth's animals. Turns out, the scientists may also have found a minuscule fragment of that asteroid encased in a bit of amber. The story of the discovery is told in Dinosaur Apocalpyse, a new BBC Earth documentary also airing on PBS's Nova. From CNN:
It's "like getting a sample vial, running back in time and getting a sample from the impact site and then saving it for science," [University of Manchester paleontologist Robert] DePalma said.
DePalma said they hope to be able to confirm what the asteroid was made from and where it might be from — efforts that have caught the attention of NASA; DePalma presented his findings last month at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"This example of what might be a little tiny fragment, maybe micrograms, of the colliding asteroid — the fact that a record of that is preserved, would be mind-blowing," said Goddard Chief Scientist Jim Garvin, who has studied impact cratering on Earth and Mars.