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article imageScientists say Earth in serious danger of being hit by comets

By Stephen Morgan     Oct 25, 2015 in Science
Scientists now believe we have a far greater chance of being hit by a comet than previously thought. They say that the possibility of a catastrophic impact, which would cause mass extinctions, has been seriously underestimated.
According to new research, we are now no longer in the "safe zone", but entering a dangerous period as our solar system passes through the Milky Way's galactic disk.
Sky News reports that Prof Rampino, from New York University, and US colleague Professor Ken Caldeira, from the Carnegie Institution have analyzed new data and deduced that we should be far more alert to the real possibility of a massive disaster.
The researchers have taken a new look at meteor impacts, which have caused mass extinctions in the last 260 million years and discovered a 26 million-year cycle that coincides with the path taken by our Solar System when it periodically passes through the Milky Ways' galactic disk.
The last time this happened was 11 million years ago, which was around the same time as the last Middle Miocene extinction, during which thousands of aquatic and terrestrial species were wiped out.
This was due to gravitational disturbances in the Oort Cloud, which is made up of icy water, ammonia, and methane objects from which it is thought that Halley's Comet originated.
Some scientists fear that as we again pass through its spiral arms, the sun's power will break comets away from their paths and send them hurtling towards the planets within our solar system. This, combined with the forces of dark matter, may sling showers of comets at Earth.
Dark matter is a mysterious substance which cannot be seen because it emits no light, but can be detected by its huge gravitational pull on celestial bodies. Together with dark energy, it is estimated to make up some 95 percent of the universe.
The MailOnline quotes geologist Professor Michael Rampino, who said;
"There is evidence that the comet activity has been high for the last one to two million years, and some comet orbits are perturbed, so we may be in a shower at the present time.
"That would agree with our position near the galactic mid-plane, where perturbations from dark matter etc. would be expected."
More about Earth, Danger, Hit, Comet, asterioid
 
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