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A Disturbance In The "Force" Caused The K-T Impact?

"Our best calculations show that the dynamical state of the inner Solar System changed abruptly about 65 million years ago," says Michael Ghil, the Director of UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. "It is possible that it was a transition through a special kind of resonance that produced the abrupt change at the K-T boundary."
Edinburgh - June 27, 2001
But this disturbance is more mysterious than Darth Vader. UCLA scientists don't know exactly what it was, but they believe it occurred within the Solar System 65 million years ago. The ensuing pandemonium upset Solar System dynamics causing Mercury, Earth, and Mars to go off course.

"We speculate that it may also have perturbed asteroids in the inner part of the asteroid belt, throwing one or more of them into Earth-crossing orbits," explained Bruce Runnegar, Director of UCLA's Center for Astrobiology.

"Thus, the ultimate cause of the K-T impact--and demise of the dinosaurs--may have been a chaos-induced change in Solar System dynamics."

Runnegar will present the team's findings at the Earth Systems Processes conference on Wednesday, June 27, in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Geological Society of America and the Geological Society of London will co-convene the June 24-28 meeting.

The other team members, Ferenc Varadi, a UCLA geophysicist, and Michael Ghil, the Director of UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, have worked for years on chaos in the Solar System and, in particular, the role of in-step motions known as resonances in giving rise to the chaos.

This earlier work on resonances and chaos among the planets and the asteroids prepared the ground for the present tantalizing results.

"In order to better understand the history of the inner Solar System over hundreds of millions of years, we carried out several accurate, long-term, numerical simulations of the orbits of the nine major planets using physical models with increasing complexity," Runnegar said.

"Our best calculations show that the dynamical state of the inner Solar System changed abruptly about 65 million years ago." Ghil added: "It is possible that it was a transition through a special kind of resonance that produced the abrupt change at the K-T boundary."

While scientists generally accept that there was indeed an extraterrestrial impact 65 million years ago (at the Cretaceous/Tertiary or K-T boundary) that wiped out most living species on Earth, they do not agree on the nature of what caused that impact.

Was it an asteroid? Was it a comet? Now at least we have a better idea and a vital clue to what really happened with this Earth-shaking event so many millions of years ago.

Related Links
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at UCLA
Geological Society of London
Geological Society of America
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Mass Extinction At The Triassic-Jurassic Boundary
Edinburgh - June 27, 2001
Who did it? Who pulled the trigger, or rather, what pulled the trigger at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary that wiped out 20% of all marine families in Earth's oceans, and, on land, most non-dinosaurian archosaurs, most therapsids, and the last of the large amphibians? Whatever it was, it shot down much of the competition so dinosaurs could later dominate the Earth.


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