Today, no one in the scientific community doubtsin that the dinosaurs became extinct due to the impact of the asteroid Chicxulub, which fell off the coast of Mexico 65 million years ago and left behind a crater 149 kilometers wide and 19 kilometers deep. As for the destructive force of the blow, there is also no doubt about it - Chicxulub destroyed almost three quarters of all living creatures and plunged our planet into an endless night and an 18-month winter, although instead of snow, fiery rain fell on the ground. But despite the results of the latest scientific research in this area, scientists still have questions about the asteroid. So, the researchers could not come to an agreement about what Chiksilub really is - an asteroid or a fragment of a comet, where it came from, how it got to Earth and why it fell on it with such destructive force. Meanwhile, the answers to. these questions can shed light not only on the last minutes of the life of dinosaurs, but also on the state of the solar system and our place in it. After all, no one is safe from the fall of similar asteroids to Earth in the future.
Asteroid or comet fragment?
Scientists have long agreed that the blowChicxuluba on the Earth caused wildfires that stretched for hundreds of kilometers, caused a tsunami and emitted billions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere. This gaseous haze blocked sunlight, cooling the planet and dooming dinosaurs and 75% of all life on the planet to death. But the origin of the asteroid remained a mystery for many years.
Scientific Reports recently hadpublished a study on the origin of Chicxulub. By analyzing data on objects that fly around the solar system, as well as data obtained from computer simulations, scientists at Harvard University have finally found a way to explain how and why the Earth fell victim to this mysterious object. Interestingly, one of the co-authors of the study was a Harvard University professor Avi Loeb. He recently suggested that the asteroid Oumuamua, which invaded our solar system in 2017, may be alien technology. Read more in our material.
So, most theories assume thatChicxulub was a massive asteroid; hundreds of thousands of these space rocks live between Mars and Jupiter. Harvard astrophysicists, however, have come up with an alternative idea: they believe Chicxulub was not an asteroid at all, but a piece of an icy comet that Jupiter's gravity pushed too close to the Sun. As the researchers write in their work, Chicxulub's journey began in Oort cloud - a hypothetical region of the solar system, which is located at its very edge.
Asteroids and comets are classified by NASA asspace rocks, but they differ in key ways: comets form from ice and dust outside our solar system and tend to be small and fast moving, while rocky asteroids are larger, slower, and form closer to the sun.
“We assume that, in fact, ifdestroying such an object when it gets close to the Sun can lead to an appropriate speed of events, as well as to an impact of such force that it destroyed the dinosaurs, "- said study co-author Avi Loeb in an interview with The Independent.
This theory, however, contradicts one of the othermain theories about where Chicxulub came from: it is believed that it was a piece of a larger asteroid that came to us from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. New research suggests Chicxulub began its journey from the Oort Cloud, as research in Chicxulub and other similar craters suggests that the objects that created them were relatively primitive objects called carbonaceous chondrites - such a composition is much more likely in Oort cloud objects than in objects from the asteroid belt, the researchers say.
See also: The Hayabusa-2 spacecraft dropped fragments of the asteroid Ryugu to Earth. What will he do next?
Astrophysicists also note that the hypothesis can bewould be verified in further study of the craters themselves, including similar craters on the moon. When the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile goes live next year, scientists will also be able to observe similar comets and see if they behave in a similar way.
Interestingly, Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb are notthe only scientists who believe that the dinosaurs were doomed to death by a comet, not an asteroid. A team of researchers from Dartmouth College also suggested in 2013 that a high-speed comet could create Chicxulub crater.
Chicxulub crashed into the Earth at a speed of 19 kmsecond, which is about 30 times faster than the speed of a supersonic jet. The resulting crater, 149 km wide, extended 19 km into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. Some scientists have calculated that the asteroid's power was equivalent to 10 billion atomic bombs used during World War II.
According to The Insider, the search for the correct answer inThe debate about Chicxulub's origins is useful as it can help researchers figure out the likelihood of a similar event in the future. According to the results of one interesting study, only two or three comets from the Oort Cloud have fallen to Earth in the last 500 million years... But according to the Planetary Society, the asteroidthe size of Chicxulub collides with our planet roughly every 100 million years. Do you think Chicxulub is a comet fragment or an asteroid? We will wait for the answer here, as well as in the comments to this article.