Dinosaur-Killing: May come from the edge of the solar system
Dinosaur-Killing: May come from the edge of the solar system

For decades, the prevailing theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs was that an asteroid from the belt between Mars and Jupiter slammed into the planet, causing cataclysmic devastation that wiped out most life on the planet.

But new research out of Harvard University theorizes that the Armageddon causing object came from much farther out than originally believed.

According to this new theory, the devastation came not from a relatively nearby asteroid, but from a sort of long-distance comet that came from the edge of the solar system, in an area known as the Oort cloud.

The gravity from Jupiter pulled the comet into the solar system. At that point, according to Amir Siraj, a Harvard student who co-authored the paper with Professor Avi Loeb, "Jupiter acts as a kind of pinball machine."

"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.

Avi Loeb has been making waves for a few years now by arguing that 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.

Although Siraj and Loeb's novel theory has raised eyebrows among the scientific community, it has also been criticized. "I believe their work has several intrinsic problems," Bill Bottke, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., told The New York Times.

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