Dinosaur-killing comet may have come from the edge of the solar system

Dinasour killed

Harvard’s most controversial astronomer has a new theory about the space rock that took out the dinosaurs. He’s saying there’s reason to believe it came from farther afield than previously assumed.

Avi Loeb has been making waves for a few years now by arguing that the first ever interstellar object Oumuamua could be a wayward piece of alien technology from far beyond our solar system. But his latest paper has nothing to do with that.

Loeb and Harvard University astrophysics undergraduate student Amir Siraj suggest in a new study published Monday in Scientific Reports that the Chicxulub Impactor, which ended the rule of the thunder lizards, originated from the edge of our own solar system.

A popular theory about the demise of the dinos says the impactor likely originated from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, but Loeb and Siraj use statistical analysis and gravitational simulations to calculate that more Earth impactors actually originated from the far-off Oort cloud where most long-period comets hail from.

The pair’s calculations suggest some such comets can get knocked off track on their journey toward the inner solar system, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

“The solar system acts as a kind of pinball machine,” Siraj explained in a statement. “Jupiter, the most massive planet, kicks incoming long-period comets into orbits that bring them very close to the sun.”

So-called sungrazer comets can then be torn apart by the pull of the sun’s gravity.

“And crucially, on the journey back to the Oort cloud, there’s an enhanced probability that one of these fragments hit the Earth,” Siraj said. 


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