There have been many theories that claim to put forward reasons behind mass extinction of dinosaurs, but none have implicated the role of dark matter until now.
A new research claims that Earth’s infrequent yet predictable path around and through Milky Way’s disc may have a direct and significant effect on geological and biological phenomena occurring on Earth. The research adds that dark matter may perturb the orbits of comets and lead to additional heating in the Earth’s core, both of which could be connected with mass extinction events.
In his research published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, New York University Biology Professor Michael Rampino has revealed how he believes mass extinction events and dark matter are related.
Previous studies have pegged Earth’s rotation around Milky Way’s disk at 250 million years. But it is also known that Earth’s path around the Galaxy is wavy, with the Sun and planets weaving through the crowded disc approximately every 30 million years.
Rampino analyzed the pattern of the Earth’s passes through the Galactic disc and found that these disc passages seem to correlate with times of comet impacts and mass extinctions of life. The famous comet strike 66 million ago that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs is just one example, he notes.
How is dark matter responsible?
The research tries to look for the answer that correlates Earth’s passes through the Galactic disc and the impacts and extinctions that seem to follow.
Rampino notes that dark matter concentrations in the Milky Way disturb the pathways of comets orbiting far from Earth as our solar system moves through the Milky Way. This means that comets that would normally travel at great distances from the Earth instead take unusual paths, causing some of them to collide with the planet.
Another startling claim in the research is that with each each dip through the disc the dark matter can apparently accumulate within the Earth’s core. These dark matter particles ultimately annihilate each other and produce considerable heat, which could eventually trigger events such as volcanic eruptions, mountain building, magnetic field reversals, and changes in sea level. Such events, Rampino notes, also show peaks every 30 million years.
This lead Rampino to put forward his theory that astrophysical phenomena derived from the Earth’s winding path through the Galactic disc, and the consequent accumulation of dark matter in the planet’s interior, can result in dramatic changes in Earth’s geological and biological activity.
“We are fortunate enough to live on a planet that is ideal for the development of complex life,” Rampino says.
“But the history of the Earth is punctuated by large scale extinction events, some of which we struggle to explain. It may be that dark matter – the nature of which is still unclear but which makes up around a quarter of the universe – holds the answer. As well as being important on the largest scales, dark matter may have a direct influence on life on Earth.”