Humans might never have appeared on Earth had an asteroid 66 million years ago hit a spot other than the one it did, a new BBC documentary suggests.
The asteroid that felled the dinosaurs hit a shallow sea near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, sending a dense cloud of sulfur into the atmosphere. The sky darkened, temperatures dropped, food sources vanished, and the dinosaurs keeled over.
But they might've avoided extinction had the 9-mile-wide asteroid hit Earth a few moments earlier or later, experts explain in The Day the Dinosaurs Died. Had Earth been positioned so that the asteroid hit deep ocean, a much smaller cloud of sulfur would've been released and sunlight likely would've penetrated it, experts say, per the BBC.
Scientists pulled rock cores from the Gulf of Mexico's Chicxulub crater that show the asteroid, traveling at 40,000mph, hit Earth with the energy of 10 billion atomic bombs and left a hole 111 miles wide by 20 miles deep, reports Yahoo.
It would've killed anything within a 600-mile radius, reports the New York Post, but 25,000 fossil fragments found in New Jersey suggest animals far away died within months at most as 100 billion tons of sulfates clouded the atmosphere.
"That would be enough to cool the planet for a decade and wipe out most life," says a study co-leader. Could you have had a pet T.
Rex if things had worked out differently? Not likely. Mammals only appeared 500,000 years after the impact, a BBC presenter notes. "With the dinosaurs gone, suddenly the landscape was empty of competitors and ripe with possibilities. Chances are, if it wasn't for that asteroid, we wouldn't be here." (Dinosaurs were in trouble before the asteroid.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Hit in Exact Wrong Place