Evidence uncovered of asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago

Photo: VCG/Getty Images

New research released on Friday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has resulted in a fossilized portrait of the day nearly 66 million years ago when an asteroid struck the Earth moving at nearly 45,000 MPH, producing a supersonic shock wave and wiping out the vast majority of the planet's living organisms.

Details: What emerged is a "remarkable trove of fossils," writes The New Yorker's Douglas Preston, adding this appears to be "the most important paleontological discovery of the new century." Experts, including the primary author of the report, Robert DePalma, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kansas, unearthed evidence in North Dakota of the asteroid.

New, "pristine" fossils reveal secrets of Cambrian explosion

Scientists work to dig up fossils at the Qingjiang biota in China.
Digging up a Qingjiang fossil on a bank of the Danshui River, Hubei Province, China. Photo: Dong King Fu

On the banks of the Danshui River in China, scientists have unearthed a treasure trove of pristine fossil remnants from one of the most important periods in the history of life on Earth: the Cambrian explosion.

The big picture: The Cambrian explosion, which occurred a little more than 500 million years ago and lasted for about 40 million years, is the period when nearly all the major groups of multicellular life forms currently on Earth first appeared. It was a period of frenzied evolutionary development and biodiversity buildup, mainly in the world's oceans.