Did dark matter kill the dinosaurs?
A thin disk of dark matter running through the Galaxy might be behind the large meteorite strikes that are thought to be responsible for some of Earth’s mass extinctions, including that of the dinosaurs, two theoretical physicists have proposed.
The model is based on a hypothetical form of dark matter described by the authors and their collaborators last year as a means to solve a separate cosmic conundrum. The existence of such a ‘dark disk’ could be tested soon by astronomical observations. […]
Meteorites regularly pepper Earth’s surface. Thirty years ago, physicists suggested that this bombardment intensifies cyclically, pointing to some underlying cosmic cause. One proposed explanation is that the Sun has an as-yet-undetected companion star, dubbed ‘Nemesis’ or ‘Death Star’, that regularly swings by, sending comets from the remote Oort cloud flying into the inner Solar System.
In the latest paper, theoretical physicists Lisa Randall and Matthew Reece, of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reignite another proposal, which puts the supposed periodicity down to the way the Sun — and the Solar System with it — move inside the Milky Way. As the Sun follows the swirling motion of the Galaxy’s arms, circling around the galactic centre, it also moves up and down, periodically crossing the plane that cuts the Galaxy into a top and a bottom half like the two bread slices in a sandwich. The authors suggest that as the Sun oscillates up and down, it crosses a denser layer of dark matter — like the ham in the middle — causing a gravitational push and pull that disturbs comets in the Oort cloud.