College of Alameda Students Work with UC Berkeley on Ancient Collision

Peter Olds

College of Alameda chemistry student Jonathon Howell explores the KT boundary in southern Colorado in Berwind Canyon near Trinidad. Howell is one of three students assisting chemistry professor Peter Olds study the ancient impact crater there.

College of Alameda chemistry students Jon Howell, Jessica Ng and Jenna Luckhardt are working at the Earth and Planetary Science Department at UC Berkeley. They are helping College of Alameda chemistry professor Peter Olds determine whether a large asteroid collided with earth some 66 million years ago.

This ancient impact might have caused the demise of not only nonavian dinosaurs and but 75 percent of all the animal and plant species on earth.

This catastrophic disruption is known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary — or KT — impact event. Scientists study this event by separating and identifying small grains of the mineral chromite deposited with the impact layer in southern Colorado and eastern Wyoming.

It is not known yet whether these grains are from the terrestrial target rocks or from the extraterrestrial impacting object. Chemistry and mineralogy tests, like the ones these students are conducting, will provide the answer.

"If the grains are terrestrial then the consensus view that the Chicxulub crater on the Yucatan Peninsula is the only KT boundary impact site will be thrown into doubt," said Olds. "If the grains are extraterrestrial, science may be able to identify the class of meteorite that hit. Whatever the answer, it will be new and exciting."


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