By now it is common knowledge that the impact of an asteroid or comet brought the age of the dinosaurs
to an abrupt end. Less well known, though, is exactly how they and so many other species became extinct and how ecosystems managed to rebuild themselves afterward. The cataclysm went far beyond the regular insults from which living things must recover. The asteroid or comet flashed through the sky more than 40 times as fast as the speed of sound. It was so large that when its leading edge made contact with ground, its trailing edge was at least as high as the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner. It produced an explosion equivalent to 100 trillion tons of TNT, a greater release of energy than any event on our planet in the 65 million years since then.
This article was originally published with the title The Day the World Burned.