The galactic theory of mass extinctions

An update

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Astronomical and geological evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that mass extinctions of life on Earth are related to impacts of comets whose flux is partly modulated by the dynamics of the Milky Way Galaxy. Geologic evidence for impact (ejecta and large impact craters) has been found at times of mass extinction events, and the record of large dated craters shows a significant correlation with extinctions. Statistical analyses suggest that mass extinction events exhibit a periodic component of about 30 Myr, and periodicities of 30 ± 0.5 Myr and 35 ± 2 Myr have been extracted from sets of well-dated large impact craters. These results suggest periodic or quasi-periodic showers of impactors, probably Oort Cloud comets, with an approximately 30 or 36 Myr cycle. The best explanation for these proposed quasi-periodic comet showers involves the Son's vertical oscillation through the galactic disk, which may have a similar cycle time between crossings of the galactic plane. Further refinement of the model will depend on the identification and quantification of the dark matter component in the galactic disk, and discovery and accurate dating of additional impact craters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalCelestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy
Volume69
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1997

Fingerprint

Galaxies
mass extinction
Extinction
crater
Identification (control systems)
extinction
craters
Update
Earth (planet)
comet
Fluxes
comets
showers
Oort cloud
Milky Way Galaxy
ejecta
impactors
cycles
periodicity
Dark Matter

Keywords

  • Comet showers
  • Mass extinction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

The galactic theory of mass extinctions : An update. / Rampino, Michael.

In: Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy, Vol. 69, No. 1-2, 1997, p. 49-58.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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