Earth has experienced a series of Mass Extinction events throughout its history. Of all events, there are 5 events that are extremely well known. Known as the Big Five, these were really catastrophic with the most popular being the Cretaceous-Tertiary or the K/T event (despite the Great Dying being the most devastating one ever) that doomed the dinosaurs forever. That event took place some 65 million years ago and until now we have known that it was mountain-sized rock from outer space that caused this extinction.
Every single mass extinction event that has taken place so far has left scars on our Earth. One such famous scar being the Yucatan Peninsula. Scientists have blamed gigantic hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and meteor impacts for these extinction-level events. However, currently scientists are wondering if the elusive dark matter has been behind these events.
A careful study of such mass extinction events have revealed a pattern. They occur every 26-30 million years. So, scientists think that possibly our Solar System, every once in a while, travels through a thin disk of dark matter which causes catastrophic geological events and massive comet bombardments, making almost every life form on earth suffer.
In Nature (a science journal), it was reported that in the plane of Milky Way, there is possibly a disk of dark matter that manages to trigger geological events on earth or even kick comets out of their orbits and send then hurdling towards earth. The journal however doesn’t rule out that the same may be caused by gas and dust clouds sitting on Milky Way’s plane.
Dark matter causing mass extinction events is nothing more than a hypothesis. There is no definitive proof that it happens. The scientific world is still struggling to understand dark matter properly which is said to be an invisible matter present and flowing in entire universe. So the question is, ‘if dark matter is invisible, how do scientists know that it exists?’ Well, the answer to this question comes from gravitational tug that celestial objects experience even when there is absolutely nothing else present to exert such gravitational pull.
Michael Rampino – a geoscientist and professor of biology from University of New York hypothesized that dark matter may be responsible for altering orbits of comets and asteroids. Rampino also thinks that this elusive dark matter may possibly lead to heating up of the core of earth which in turn triggers geological events like volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and massive earthquakes which eventually lead to extinction level events. Rampino’s hypothesis and studies were published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal.
There is no doubt that this new take on extinction level events is pretty interesting but a lot of work is to be done on this field because dark matter is very little understood. Hopefully someday we will understand exactly how the magic wand works and the day we do so, we will gain a great deal of knowledge about our past and make ourselves future-secure!