The extinction of dinosaurs, creatures that ruled Earth for 180 million years, confused scientists for decades. It was the ultimate murder mystery.
In the 1990s, the discovery of a huge crater, partially buried under the Yucatan Peninsula in eastern Mexico and Mexico, confirmed a theory that an asteroid had struck the earth and killed almost all plant and animal species, some under the sea.
The nemesis of the dinosaurs had actually come from the stars. The asteroid had hit a place called Chicxulub, which means "tail of the devil."
Thanks to a scientific study of the crater rim by a team led by Sean Gulick, a University of Texas marine geophysicist, and reported last month in the US National Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we have a much deeper understanding of Timeline of the events that occurred when the asteroid hit, as the mail now reveals.
The extinction of dinosaurs, creatures that ruled Earth for 180 million years, amazed scientists for decades. It was the ultimate thriller
Two Days to the Impact
66 million years ago, a small bright light appeared in the night sky above the earth. It does not seem to move, but it gets brighter. The object is a massive asteroid, nine miles wide and moving at a phenomenal rate.
Directly on his way is the earth.
Our planet is in the so-called Cretaceous, a time of tropical temperatures. Thanks to seasonal rainfall, there is plenty of life. About one-third of Earth's present land area, including present-day Britain, lies beneath shallow seas. Although much of Europe is covered in water, the continents look the same as they do today. They moved apart at the speed with which a fingernail grows – and when they parted, the dinosaurs grew independent of the landmass and became more diverse.
One Hour to the Impact
The last day of the Cretaceous begins like any other. The land is covered with forests and flowering plants that are pollinated by insects. The oceans are full of fast predatory fish like the Xiphactinus and the 46 foot long Tylosaurus. In the air, bird species such as the Ornithoche virus glide majestically.
Land dinosaurs have colonized the entire planet and include terrible creatures such as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Giganotosaurus. When they look up, these creatures can see two suns. The strange new orb southeast of today's Mexico is getting bigger as it gets faster due to gravity.
Two minutes before impact
The asteroid zooms in at a shallow angle over the South Atlantic, burning 20,000 degrees Celsius. It's a lot brighter now than the sun. It looks like a fireball.
Five Seconds Before Impact
The asteroid moves into the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 45,000 miles per hour, blasting a hole in the Earth's atmosphere. This triggers a global supersonic shockwave and produces a flash of light so dazzling that shadows from trees, plants and dinosaurs are engraved on the silhouette of the scorched ground.
150 million years of evolution are coming to an end.  Impact
The asteroid impacts the shallow waters of today's Yucatan Peninsula, creating a 100-mile diameter crater with a depth of 20 miles. In no time the asteroid has evaporated. Twenty-five billion tons of debris shoot into the atmosphere – enough to cover the globe.
The explosion equals 100 trillion tons of TNT and is billion times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb. In the impact crater, a summit above Everest climbs before falling back.
Due to the low angle of its trajectory, most of the destructive power of the asteroid is thrown forward. The burning debris emanating from the Chicxulub crater is hotter than the surface of the sun and ignites everything within a radius of 1000 miles.
The temperature rises above 300 ° C and the water in the skin of a dinosaur near the impact begins to boil and then breaks out as steam.
Creatures immediately burned: Thousands of 50-foot Lambeosaurus with their brightly colored heads; Sarkosuchus, the giant crocodile that feeds itself on dinosaurs; and the heaviest of all, the Argentinosaurus, which weighs up to 100,000 kg. All are burned alive.
A tsunami several hundred meters high radiates from the crater. Countless thousands of marine animals are caught in the whirlpool – starfish, sea urchins, heavy shell turtles, aquatic lizards known as Eupodophis, and 40-foot hydrotherosaurs. Some of these creatures are still alive, but many are already dead.
Two Minutes After Impact
Some of the larger pieces of rock ejected by the blast fall back to Earth causing more massive craters and firing more Forest fires.  Seismic waves radiate through the core of the planet. As the ground bounces and bends, large dinosaurs fall over, but smaller creatures perform better.
The small long-muzzle Zalambdalestes, early mammals, dig in for safety reasons. Eight inches long Cimolestes, whose name means "insect thief," also seeks shelter in the ground and under rocks (cats and dogs are descended from this clever survivor).
Three Minutes After Impact
Just over 2,000 miles north of the impact zone in what is now Hell Creek, Montana, a group of Tyrannosaurus Rex, the largest carnivores, run through a coniferous forest to a riverbank.
The six-ton creatures tower almost 40 feet high. Suddenly the ground rises and falls under her huge hind legs.
Smaller creatures are struck against trees – then the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex stagger and fall and smash their skulls.
The bodies of hundreds of creatures are finally buried in the changing sediments. Sixty-six million years later, the discovery of their remains provides important evidence for the asteroid strike.
Five Minutes After Impact
Over North America, flocks of Quetzalcoatlus, a dinosaur with a span of 36 feet, use thermal currents to stay in the air for hours.
Because Quetzalcoatlus is predisposed to predators, it rarely lands.
His dominance in the sky is nearing the end.
Molten rock towering high in the air cools as it falls, producing small glass bullets known as Tektites. These pierce the wings of the Quetzalcoatluses and fall one after another from the sky. In Hell Creek, Montana, glowing tectites thrust into the dying Tyrannosaurus Rexes, burning holes in their skin.
30 Minutes After Impact
The tsunami strikes the coast at a speed of more than 160 km / h, tearing up tons of rocks and hurling them inland, erasing forest fires as they roll forward.
Giant trees and the corpses of fish and sea lizards are carried in the wave and, when the water finally slows down, they land inland. Meanwhile, on the northeastern edge of the Chicxulub crater, seawater begins to flow over its steep walls.
The deadly hailstorm of tectites finally ends.
Three hours after the impact, forest fires are still burning throughout North America. But the air is steadily cooling and now the tektites and molten rocks have stopped.
In Montana, a deafening sonic bang suddenly rings out – it's the sound of the asteroid hitting the earth 2,000 miles away, and it took so long to travel the earth's distance north. The noise tears the ears of the living dinosaurs.
Four hours after the impact
As the world revolves, the fiery cloud spreads around the globe. It is charged with millions of volts of static electricity and creates spectacular thunderstorms. Landslides and earthquakes caused by the explosion lead to further tsunamis worldwide.
The effects of the asteroid attack now reach the islands and seas that will one day become Western Europe. Here the earth shakes and forest fires have been lit all over the country.
Plants like Magnolias, Sassafras, Gingkoes and Cycads are swallowed by the flames.
The largest land animals of all time, the sauropods, are fighting for their lives. The herbivorous iguanodon, one of the most successful dinosaurs of its time, with a thumb in the form of a defensive thorn, is as helpless as any other in the face of this disaster.
Five Hours After Impact
In the Gulf of Mexico, the first of numerous super tsunamis ricocheting off the coast begins to damage the edge of Chicxulub Crater. Thousands of tons of water fall down the sides.
Six hours after impact
All the forests on the Indian subcontinent, 9,000 miles from the crater, are on fire. In the deserts of southern Mongolia, large, ostrich-like Citipati are sitting on eggs whose feathered arms spread out to the edges of their nests to protect the eggs from the sun.
There are no except the last fires hours, the temperature has risen alarmingly. The Citipati are slowly being cooked alive.
Ten hours after the impact.
North America is cooler, but the air is still thick with smoke from forest fires. Countless herds of triceratops, horned animals the size of elephants that feed happily in swamps, are dead or dying. The high-walled nests of the females are left with 15 to 20 eggs hidden under conifer bark.
One day after the impact
The sun has not reappeared. Soot and dust block its light.
This is the first day of the so-called Cenozoic era or the "youngest" era.
Crater debris still moves at high speed into space. Within a few weeks, a part of it will orbit the sun. Fragments will land sometime on Mars and on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. These debris can contain living microbes and have thus exported life from Earth to outer space.
Now we have a much deeper understanding of the timeline of events that occurred during the impact of the asteroid
One week after the impact
The sky is still dark. Photosynthesis has been halted and plants have died. All large herbivores that have survived the effects of the impact, such as the sauropods, the horned ceratopsians, and the duck-billed hadrosaur, are beginning to starve. This food has also died. Giant reptiles such as the crocodile-toothed Mosasaurus soon go out to eat the dead fish.
Two weeks after the impact.
The remaining carnivorous dinosaurs starve to death and are robbed of their prey. However, one species – the bird dinosaurs known as birds – shows signs that they can survive the apocalypse.
Their ability to fly has enabled some to escape and find less harsh conditions – and small creatures multiply faster than large ones. The birds do not have to eat as much as the larger animals and may survive on insects and seeds hidden in the ground.
These survivors will evolve Over millions of years we know birds like penguins, owls and ducks. Turtles and crocodiles that can eat decayed plants have also survived in the sea.
Two months after the impact
The fires are extinguished and the earth is cold and dark. Dust still prevents sunlight from reaching the surface of the planet. The darkness lasts another two months.
Seventy percent of Earth's forests have been destroyed and 75 percent of all species destroyed. Any animal larger than a crocodile has been destroyed.
It is raining and the atmosphere is full of billions of tons of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. These greenhouse gases were released when limestone layers in the impact crater were vaporized.
Without the marauding dinosaurs, the world is calmer. The Velociraptor will no longer rip you to death with jagged teeth or the horned Carnotaurus truncheons.
The rule of the lizards is over.
Scientists believe that if the asteroid had fallen just minutes later, the fate of our planet would have been very different. A collision with deeper water after the earth's turn would have meant that much of the force would have been absorbed and less intense firestorms and a lesser amount of rock had been thrown into the atmosphere.
After the dinosaurs …
] When one world ends, another begins. The dust clears and the sunlight warms the earth. The plant life finally recovers.
Within a few hundred thousand years, the world is again covered in swamps and jungles.
The demise of the dinosaurs has given the mammals, who until now have been insignificant, the opportunity to grow in number and variety.  Mammals had long lived in the shadow of the dinosaurs, but now is their time. The ancestors of elephants, rodents, bats and whales emerge – and also our distant ancestor, the earliest primate.
None of us would be here without the asteroid.
Jonathan Mayo is the author of D-Day: Minute by Minute (short)