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l But what about an asteroid that is nine miles across and leaves a crater miles wide? To understand the effects of that impact, the team needs to know exactly how much energy it released. To do that, they’re comparing rock samples from Yucatan to data gathered from some of the largest ever man-made explosions. This is the Nevada Test Site, the most bombed place in the world. The US military have detonated atomic bombs here. To help us understand how atomic bombs connect to asteroids, we’ve enlisted the help of physicists Mark Boslough and David Dearborn. The blast must have come all the way through, and I bet these windows blew out. Those shards of glass would be accelerated by mph wind. Wind, the windows were gone. Yes. And they’re totally… boom. This house was part of a test village called Survival Town, built to study the effects of a nuclear blast. It actually survived a blast called Apple- in May . EXPLOSION WIND HOWLS Most of the damage is done by the fireball… and the heat that is generated, or the blast wave as it goes by… and the houses that were in closer didn’t survive. Those of us who work on asteroid impacts, we naturally started comparing them to nuclear explosions. It’s a similar phenomenon. The experimenters had high-speed cameras, they had gauges that measured the intensity of the shock wave, the blast wave in the air. The tests found that nuclear explosions are devastating even at a microscopic level, causing catastrophic shock to minerals such as quartz. The pressure is so high in a shock wave from a nuclear explosion that it actually exceeds the strength of a crystal. Crystal is made up of a uniform array of atoms and that uniformity is completely disrupted by a strong shock wave, and that’s what shocked quartz is. In Bremen, Professor Joanna Morgan is looking at quartz found in rock cores from the asteroid impact site. From nuclear test data, she knows exactly how much force it takes to shock quartz. From this, she can tell how much force the Yucatan rock has been subjected to and begin to calculate the exact amount of energy released when the asteroid struck. So this is a piece of shocked quartz that we recently drilled from the Chicxulub impact crater. There’s lots of lines here. Essentially, the more lines we have on the screen, different directions, the more shocked this rock has been. These are caused by the impact, by the shock wave that travels through this piece of quartz. So we used exactly the same hydro-codes, they’re called, to model nuclear explosions as we do to model the impact craters. We’ve actually stolen these codes and applied them to our simulations of impact crater formation. What sort of force were we actually talking about from the asteroid hitting it? This event was equivalent to about billion Hiroshima’s, so, absolutely enormous. The most dramatic event in the last million years. billion Hiroshima’s combined? That’s the amount of force going into this? Absolutely. It’s incredible, it really is. Finally, we have hard evidence of just how powerful the asteroid strike really was.