Dinosaur-killing asteroid probably left earth in darkness for 2 years

It's well-known that the dinosaurs started going extinct when an asteroid crashed into Earth around 66 million years ago. But new research suggests that same asteroid helped darken the planet for two years, which likely killed a lot of life.

Researchers modeled changes to Earth's atmosphere based on how much soot the asteroid knocked into the sky. They found global wildfires helped lift that soot through the atmosphere, which eventually created a veil that blocked sunlight.

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Largest Dinosaur print found
People stand next to a footprint made by a meat-eating predator some 80 million years ago and one of the largest of its kind ever found, at the Maragua Syncline, Bolivia, July 20, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
Paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia measures the footprint made by a meat-eating predator some 80 million years ago and one of the largest of its kind ever found, at the Maragua Syncline, Bolivia, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
Visitors look at dinosaur footprints while visiting with a tour guide the Cal Orcko cliff in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
Paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia touches a dinosaur's footprint at the Maragua Syncline, Bolivia, July 20, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
Visitors look at dinosaur footprints while visiting the Cal Orcko cliff in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
A man walks next to dinosaur footprints at the Maragua Syncline, Bolivia, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
Visitors look at dinosaur footprints while visiting the Cal Orcko cliff in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
Children play with the replica of a dinosaur fossil at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
A child walks up a playground climber with dinosaur footprints at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
A mother takes a photograph of her children while they pose in front of the replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
Children have a snack while sitting next to the replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
The replica of a Titanosaur is seen at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
Visitors walk underneath a replica of a Titanosaur at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
A visitor walks underneath a replica of a Titanosaur at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
The replica of a Titanosaur is seen at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
Visitors walk underneath a replica of a Titanosaur at the Cretaceous park in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado 
Paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia measures the footprint made by a meat-eating predator some 80 million years ago and one of the largest of its kind ever found, at the Maragua Syncline, Bolivia, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
A truck unloads rocks next to the Cal Orko cliff where thousands of dinosaur's footprints can be seen, in Cal Orcko, on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado
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It was said to make Earth "as dark as a moonlit night." Average temperatures also dropped about 50 degrees Fahrenheit on land, and plants that survived the strike couldn't photosynthesize for over a year and a half.

SEE MORE: NASA's 'DART' Program Could Prevent Asteroids From Hitting Earth

It also destroyed marine life. Phytoplankton, considered the backbone of the marine food chain, use photosynthesis to create energy. With no light, phytoplankton died, and the rest of the aquatic food chain suffered.

Although the darkness lingered for years, researchers were surprised to find it ended abruptly. As more water formed in the upper atmosphere, it crowded the soot out, leaving more space for precipitation to happen. As it rained more and more, the soot eventually dispersed, and the Earth got light again.

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