Earth Passing Through Dark Matter May Have Caused the Dinosaur Extinction
Dark matter and the dinosaur extinction are two of science's biggest mysteries, and it turns out that one might explain the other. According to a new study from NYU, the Earth periodically passes through a concentrated area of dark matter, causing major geological disturbances, including mass extinctions.
"We are fortunate enough to live on a planet that is ideal for the development of complex life," said study author Michael Rampino. "But the history of Earth is punctuated by large scale extinction events, some of which we struggle to explain. It may be that dark matter -- the nature of which is still unclear but which makes up around a quarter of the universe -- holds the answer. As well as being important on the largest scales, dark matter may have a direct influence on life on Earth."
As the Earth rotates around the Sun, it travels around our galaxy, the Milky Way. Every 30 million years or so, it passes through the galactic disc, which contains a region that is thought to be highly concentrated in dark matter. The passage through this disc, according to Rampino, seems to be correlated with mass extinction events, including the infamous dinosaur extinction.
He theorizes that this correlation is the result of dark matter upsetting the orbits of comets, as well as causing an increase in temperature in the Earth's core. When dark matter perturbs the orbits of comets, they take unusual and unpredictable paths, making it more likely that they will collide with planets. Furthermore, when the Earth passes through this disc of dark matter, the particles of dark matter can accumulate in the Earth's core, causing a generation of heat when they annihilate each other. This could cause a host of dramatic geological effects, such as volcanic eruptions, mountain building, magnetic field reversals, and changes in sea level, which all seem to cycle according to the 30 million year timeline as well.
This study has not been independently verified, although it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal and a team of researchers from Harvard recently came to similar conclusions. If this study turns out to be correct, then we may soon know what caused the extinction of the most formidable terrestrial species in Earth's history.