The massive asteroid impact that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago may have also light up the Earth's skies red and sparked a cataclysmic global firestorm.
The mass die-off known as the K-T extinction is believed by most scientists to have been caused by an asteroid or comet that impacted the Earth and created the 112-mile-wide Chicxulub crater in Mexico. This extinction event resulted in the vanishing of up to 80 percent of Earth's species.
Researchers have created a new model of the disaster, and now say that the impact would have sent vaporized particles of rock high above Earth's atmosphere, where they would have condensed into sand-grain size pieces. As the hot, ejected rock material fell back to Earth, it could have dumped enough heat in the upper atmosphere to cause it cook at 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, which would have turned the sky red for several hours.
The infrared "heat pulse" would have behaved like a broiler oven, igniting tinder below and burning every twig, bush, tree and any living thing not shielded underground or underwater.
Douglas Robertson of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, explains:
"It's likely that the total amount of infrared heat was equal to a 1 megaton bomb exploding every four miles over the entire Earth."
Researchers note that a 1-megaton hydrogen bomb would be the equivalent of 80 Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs. The Chicxulub event is thought to have produced about 100 million megatons of energy.