According to the researchers, this information is essential to anticipate the advent of similar threats.
Since the dinosaurs’ extinction happened millions of years ago, knowing precisely what happened can be difficult. As scientists continue their research, they find information that sheds more light on the subject. A recent study has notably suggested a more precise origin of what marked the end for this species.
A HYPOTHESIS THAT DIFFERS FROM THE MAIN THEORY ON THE CAUSE OF DINOSAUR EXTINCTION
It’s a story we all know: Dinosaurs ruled the Earth until an asteroid left deep space and crashed into the planet. This asteroid caused the disappearance of 75% of terrestrial life, marking the end of the dinosaurs’ existence. But contrary to popular belief, what carved out the Chicxulub crater – which is located off the eastern coast of what is now Mexico – may not be an asteroid. A recent study by researchers at Harvard University suggests that the object that struck Earth 65 million years ago could be a fragment of a comet.
Dinosaurs ruled the Earth until an asteroid left deep space and crashed into the planet
This 7-kilometer-wide fragment is said to have been torn from a comet from the Oort Cloud and traveling too close to the Sun after being deported by Jupiter’s gravitational field. “Jupiter acts as a kind of pinball machine. Jupiter propels these long-lived comets into orbits that bring them very close to the Sun,” Amir Siraj, co-lead author of the study, said in a statement. While this information may seem trivial to ordinary people, it is essential because, according to the survey, there is a higher probability that such a collision will happen again.
Either way, we don’t have to fear an impact shortly, as this kind of cataclysmic event occurs every 250 to 730 million years. This new study published in the journal Scientific Reports also explores new theories on space objects’ impact points on Earth. According to the researchers, these craters are more likely to be made of carbonaceous chondrite, a primitive material dating from the Solar System’s beginning. The researchers pointed out that only about 10% of asteroids are made up of carbonaceous chondrite.
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A HYPOTHESIS THAT DOESN’T ALL AGREE
“Our hypothesis explains the composition of the largest confirmed impact crater in Earth’s history as well as the largest in recent millions of years,” the researchers explained in their paper. To reach these conclusions, the researchers performed several gravitational simulations based on data on the Oort cloud and the planets’ movement. They also took into account the frequency of possible impact of asteroids. Scientists then determined that this was much lower compared to the estimated impact frequency for the comet fragments.
If this new hypothesis is indeed relevant, the scientific community is divided on the subject. Some researchers have indeed argued that several clues confirm the initial theory that it was an asteroid that crashed into Earth and ended the dinosaurs’ reign, CNN reported.
Scientists also argued that a piece of a comet was too small to generate a Chicxulub-sized crater. The study estimated the size of the comet fragment to be around 7 kilometers wide. But it would have taken a comet at least 12 kilometers wide to form a crater the size of Chicxulub, said Natalia Artemieva, senior scientist at the Institute of Planetary Sciences.