Pitts said the asteroid was six miles wide – and that when it hit Earth, it created a crater 90 miles wide and 18 miles deep that blew 25 trillion metric tons of material into the atmosphere.

The new research showed scientists that the impact “created a gigantic tidal wave that washed across this continent, and really changed the face of the planet in that location – or, really, changed the face of the planet overall entirely,” Pitts said.

The spot where the asteroid struck is key, he said. “If the asteroid had not hit that particular location at that time, it could have been a very different outcome for the planet,” he said. “That particular impact region at that particular time created this world that we have now because it altered the planet … If it had hit somewhere else, we could have had a different planet.”