Feeds

Dark matter killed the dinosaurs, boffins suggest

Harvard physicists float new explanation for killer comets

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Comets may not be the product of the Sun exerting its influence over rocks in the Oort Cloud, but may instead be pushed Earth-wards by dark matter.

So say Lisa Randall and Matthew Reece from Harvard's Department of Physics, in a paper titled “Dark Matter as a Trigger for Periodic Comet Impacts”.

The pair write that “Large meteorite strikes on Earth cause big impact craters that are very likely responsible for some mass extinctions” and note that clusters of such collisions come along about every 35 million years. They therefore ponder where those space rocks come from. After dismissing the “Nemesis” theory (the Sun has a dark, invisible, companion) they wonder if the Solar System's path through the Galaxy sometimes intersects with denser-than-usual regions of space, which give Oort Cloud rocks a nudge towards the Sun.

That theory, they write, is hard to sustain because we've not been able to find denser or more energetic regions in space.

But what if those regions are out there, but are Dark Matter, the hypothetical stuff we can't see but which should probably be there in order for our models of reality to work?

The paper then heads off into what we could expect to find if Dark Matter is distributed through the Galactic Plane in similar ways to conventional matter. If the dark stuff behaves the same way as observable matter, the pair reason, it could well be that the Solar System occasionally passes through regions where there's enough Dark Matter to disturb Oort Cloud rocks and send them our way. And seeing as our Solar System orbits the galactic core, it makes sense that we would pass through such regions regularly enough to match observed large space rock impacts here on Earth.

The paper concludes that there's not enough data on the disposition of space to make this more than “a fascinating possibility worthy of further exploration."

Try telling that to the dinosaurs. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?