Life on earth is as rare as it is fragile. Even though it is statistically impossible to be alone in the universe we are in the only planet that we know so far that hosts life, however, during the billions of years of its existence our planet has suffered mass extinctions that have caused impressive changes and have put life itself on the brink of disappearance.
The most famous mass extinction is without a doubt that of the dinosaurs, those immense animals that were once the dominant species on the planet and whose extinction gave way for a species of primates not particularly endowed with the strength to take their place on the throne.
The cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs was the subject of intense debate for decades, however, at this point, there is already a kind of scientific consensus that points to the impact of a meteorite as the culprit.
New Study Shows That Jupiter Was To Blame For Dinosaur Extinction
A new study tries to decipher the origin of that space rock. Using statistical analysis and gravitational simulations, Harvard University astrophysics student Amir Siraj and astronomer Avi Loeb calculate that a significant fraction of long-period comets originating from the Oort cloud, an icy sphere of debris on the edge of the solar system, can be deflected from its course by Jupiter’s gravitational field
“The solar system acts like a kind of pinball machine. Jupiter, the most massive planet, propels long-period incoming comets into orbits that bring them very close to the sun,” Siraj said.
The calculations show that there is a possibility that a long-period comet fragment as it approaches the sun and that while most of the mass will bounce back out of the solar system it is likely that one of those chunks of giant fractured rock has impacted Earth causing a great catastrophe on our planet 66 million years ago.