Scientists have always wanted to know what caused dinosaurs and other ancient life forms to be wiped off the face of the Earth – and a lot of hypotheses have flown around in the past 30 years with no one answer fully satisfying everybody; now they all seem to agree that combined impacts of comet and asteroid showers among others caused mass extinction of animals 260 million years ago - according to a release from the Royal Astronomical Society.
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The findings are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and it stems from a series of studies proving that mass extinctions were linked with asteroid impacts and comet incidents millions of years ago.
A geologist at New York University, Michael Rampino, together with Ken Caldeira of the Department of Global Ecology at Carnegie Institution conducted experiments that seem to show that impact craters created by large asteroids hitting the Earth led to the extinction of dinosaurs and the mass extinction of several other ancient life.
Rampino and Caldeira were able to show that crater impacts and extinctions took place every 26 million years in a sort of cyclical patter due to the periodic motion of the Sun and the planets as they move through thick galaxy.
To this extent, astronomers believe the gravitational pull of the comet Oort around the Sun creates frequent comet showers within the inner solar system, and this is where certain comets emerge to hit upon Earth. A number of time-series analyses show this is what may have actually happened.
"The correlation between the formation of these impacts and extinction events over the past 260 million years is striking and suggests a cause-and-effect relationship," said Rampino.
Rampino and Caldeira were able to establish that six mass extinction events may have occurred in the Earth within the past 260 million years, and some of these occurred because of comet showers and asteroid hits that created large impact craters, such as the Chicxulub crater which is 180 km in diameter at the Yucatan.
The Yucatan incident happened about 65 million years ago and this corresponds to a time when dinosaurs roamed the face of the Earth.
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"This cosmic cycle of death and destruction has without a doubt affected the history of life on our planet," Rampino noted.