Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cosmic Butterfly Flaps Wings, Dinosaurs Die

The title’s a stretch, but when I read this story, “Ancient Space Collision Killed Off Dinosaurs,” at FOX News, I couldn’t help but thinking of that, um, whatever it is (a “saying” maybe?) where a butterfly flaps its wings in China, setting off a series of cascading events that leads to a hurricane in the Atlantic.

So here’s the deal. Scientists at the University of Arizona using “a series of computer models” believe there’s a good chance debris from a collision of two “mega-asteroids” led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Don’t even ask how a computer model could figure this out. I don’t know exactly, and it seems like a stretch (which is probably because my puny brain can’t fathom how the math on this works). But from what I gather they’re studying the “Baptistina asteroid family,” which seems to be the leftovers of a collision between two big asteroids. How big? Researchers estimate one of the rocks was 25 miles across and the other was 6 miles. From this collision, a big chunk, one believed to be six-miles across itself, went hurtling through space. Eventually the species-killer zeroes in on Earth, tears through the atmosphere with a biblical howl, a T-Rex looks up from its last meal, the asteroid hits the Yucatan peninsula, and the rest is history.

Back to the Baptistina family. About 20 percent of the large-fragment pieces have spun off into the solar system. Two percent of that has made its way towards earth, accounting for a “two-fold increase in the impact rate over the past 100 million to 200 million years,” researchers believe.

Another large fragment from the original asteroid impact is believed to have hit the moon, creating the 53-mile Tycho crater.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.