Comet from edge of solar system killed dinosaurs: Study | Daily News

Comet from edge of solar system killed dinosaurs: Study

An artist's depiction of the moment the Chicxulub asteroid struck present-day Mexico 66 million years ago.
An artist's depiction of the moment the Chicxulub asteroid struck present-day Mexico 66 million years ago.

US: Sixty-six million years ago, a huge celestial object struck off the coast of what is now Mexico, triggering a catastrophic "impact winter" that eventually wiped out three-quarters of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs.

A pair of astronomers at Harvard say they have now resolved long standing mysteries surrounding the nature and origin of the "Chicxulub impactor."

Their analysis suggests it was a comet that originated in a region of icy debris on the edge of the solar system, that Jupiter was responsible for it crashing into our planet, and that we can expect similar impacts every 250 million to 750 million years.

The duo's paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports this week, pushes back against an older theory that claims the object was a fragment of an asteroid that came from our solar system's Main Belt.

Evidence suggests the Chicxulub crater and other similar craters, such as the Vredefort crater in South Africa that was struck about two billion years ago, and the million-year-old Zhamanshin crater in Kazakhstan, all had carbonaceous chondrite.

Loeb added he was excited by the prospect of the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile becoming operational next year.

The telescope might be able to see tidal disruption of long-period comets "and will be extremely important in making forecasts for definitely the next 100 years, to know if anything bad could happen to us."

Though Siraj and Loeb calculated Chicxulub-like impactors would occur once every few hundreds of millions of years, "it's a statistical thing, you say, 'on average, it's every so often' but you never know when the next one will come," said Loeb.

"The best way to find out is to search the sky," he concluded.

- AFP