A Major Meteorite Impact on the Earth 65 Million Years Ago: Evidence from the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Clay

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Science  22 Aug 1980:
Vol. 209, Issue 4459, pp. 921-923
DOI: 10.1126/science.209.4459.921

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Evidence for a major meteorite impact on the earth 65 million years ago is shown by the presence of meteoritic debris in the "fish clay" from Denmark representing the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Noble metals (iridium, osmium, gold, platinum, rhenium, ruthenium, palladium, nickel, and cobalt), which are sensitive indicators of meteorites and are normally depleted on the terrestrial surface by factors of 104 to 102 relative to cosmic abundances, are enriched in this boundary clay by factors of 5 to 100 over the expected abundances. With the exception of rhenium, all the enriched noble metals in the clay are present in cosmic proportions, indicating that the impacting celestial body had not undergone gross chemical differentiation. The major extinction of life on the earth at the end of the Cretaceous Period may be related to the meteorite impact.