Feeds

Dino-killing asteroid traced back 160m years

T-Rex was history before he was even born

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The dinosaur-busting asteroid that slammed into Earth some 65 million years ago has been traced back to a collision between two monster chunks of rock 160 million years ago, out in the main asteroid belt.

A smashing time. Art by Don Davis

According to researchers at the Southwest research Institute (SwRI) and the University of Prague, the dino-killer most likely began its journey to Earth before T-Rex had even evolved, when a relatively small (60 kilometres) asteroid crashed into a much bigger 170 kilometre monster rock.

The team says this impact produced what is now known as the Baptistina asteroid family, a cluster of asteroid fragments with similar orbits. There were originally 300 bodies larger than 10 kilometres, and 140,000 chunks larger than a kilometre.

Over time, the asteroids drifted out of the main asteroid belt, spurred on by thermal variations produced when they absorbed sunlight and re-radiated the energy away as heat.

"By carefully modelling these effects and the distance travelled by different-sized fragments from the location of the original collision, we determined that the Baptistina break up took place 160 million years ago, give or take 20 million years," Dr. William Bottke, co-author of the research explains.

Eventually, about 20 per cent of the original family made their escape from the asteroid belt, and headed towards the Earth/moon system. Of these, some two per cent actually landed on Earth, fewer still hit the moon.

The team says the family is likely to have spawned the rock that created the moon's distinctive Tycho impact, and the monster rock that created the 180-kilometre Chicxulub crater off the coast of the Yucatan 65 million years ago.

Fellow researcher Dr. David Nesvorny elaborated: "The Baptistina bombardment produced a prolonged surge in the impact flux that peaked roughly 100 million years ago. This matches up pretty well with what is known about the impact record."

The team adds that we are now at the tail end of the Baptistina bombardment. "Our simulations suggest that about 20 percent of the present-day, near-Earth asteroid population can be traced back to the Baptistina family," Bottke said. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.