In a new study published in Scientific Reports on February 15, researchers present a new theory that could explain the origin and journey of Chicxulub.
When it was around 66 million ago Years ago, the Chicxulub impactor, as it is known, crashed into the earth, leaving a crater off the coast of Mexico that is 93 miles wide and 12 miles deep.
Its devastating impact brought about the reign of the dinosaurs an abrupt and catastrophic end, suddenly triggering them along with the end of nearly three quarters of the plant and animal species then inhabiting the earth.
The enduring mystery has always been where and how the asteroid or comet, that caused the destruction came to hit the earth.
Jupiter as a pinball distracting the “sun diggers”
Using statistical analysis and gravitational simulations, the researchers show that a significant proportion of one type of comet originated in the Oort Cloud – a ball of debris at the edge of the Solar System – was thrown off course by Jupiter’s gravitational field during its orbit.
These comets were then sent close to the sun, the tidal force of which broke apart boulders. These fragments traverse Earth’s orbit, striking the planet about once every 250 to 730 million years.
“Jupiter basically acts as a kind of pinball machine,” said co-author Amir Siraj. “Jupiter sends these incoming long-period comets into orbits that bring them very close to the Sun.”
For this reason, long-period comets that take more than 200 years to orbit the Sun are called sungrazers , he said.
“When you have these Sungrazers, it’s not so much the melting, which is a fairly small fraction in relation to the total mass, but the comet is so close to the sun that the part The part closer to the sun feels a stronger gravitational pull than the part farther from the sun, causing a tidal force,” he said.
“You get what’s called a tidal disturbance event,” he said. “These large comets, coming very close to the sun, break up into smaller comets. And basically, on their way out, there is a statistical probability that these smaller comets will hit Earth.”
A greatly increased probability of long-term comets hitting Earth
The researchers’ calculations show that this theory increases the likelihood of long-period comets hitting Earth by a factor of about 10. The calculations also show that about 20% of long-period comets become sunstreaks. This finding is consistent with research by other astronomers.
The researchers claim that their new impact rate is consistent with the age of Chicxulub, providing a satisfactory explanation for its origin and other impactors like it.
The researchers claim that their new impact rate is consistent with the age of Chicxulub.
“Our article provides a basis for explaining the occurrence of this event,” said co-author Avi Loeb.
“We propose that indeed if you break an object as it approaches the sun it could result in a reasonable event rate and also the type of impact that killed the dinosaurs.” ”
What is Chicxulub made of?
Your hypothesis may also explain the composition of many of these impactors.
“Our hypothesis predicts that other Chicxulub-sized craters on Earth are more consistent with a single-primitive impactor (more carbonaceous chondrite) than expected from conventional Main Belt asteroids,” the researchers write in the paper.
This is important because a currently popular theory about the origin of Chicxulub claims the impactor is a fragment of a much larger one Asteroid originating from the main belt, an asteroid population between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.
Only about a tenth of all main-belt asteroids are made of carbonaceous chondrite, while most long-period comets are thought to be. Evidence found in Chicxulub Crater and other similar craters suggests they had carbonaceous chondrite.
These include an object that impacted about 2 billion years ago and Vredefort Crater in South Africa created what is the largest confirmed crater in Earth’s history. It also contains an impactor that left behind the Zhamanshin crater in Kazakhstan, which is the largest confirmed crater in the last million years.
An earthquake every 250,000 to 730,000 years
The Researchers say that the compositional evidence supports their model and that the years the objects were struck support their calculations on impact rates of tidally disturbed Chicxulub-sized comets as well as smaller comets like the impactor that struck the Zhamanshin crater generated, support. If they were made the same way, they would hit Earth every 250,000 to 730,000 years.
Loeb and Siraj say their hypothesis can be tested by further examining these craters, others like them, and even craters on the lunar surface to determine the composition of the impactors. Space missions that extract comets can also be helpful.
“We should be seeing smaller fragments from the Oort cloud coming to Earth more often,” Loeb said. “I’m hoping that by having more data on long-period comets, getting better statistics, and maybe seeing evidence for some fragments, we can test the theory.”
Loeb said it’s not just crucial, this understanding to solve a mystery of Earth’s history, but could prove crucial should such an event threaten the planet again.
“It must have been an amazing sight, but we don’t want this site.” see,” he said.
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Study: “Eruption of a long-period comet al s origin of the dinosaur extinction”Authors: Amir Siraj and Abraham LoebPublished in: Scientific ReportsPublished date: 15. February 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-82320-2Photo: by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay