Dinosaurs walked on Earth millions of years ago but one event led to the mass extinction of these prehistoric animals. A popular theory is that dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid 66 million years ago but one scientist points at a new culprit and other events that led to the mass extinction of life on Earth.

In a new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on Feb. 18, geoscientist Michael Rampino, from the Department of Biology of New York University, suggests prehistoric dinosaurs may have been possibly wiped out by mysterious dark matter. The researcher also warns this invisible force may strike again.

Rampino proposes that life on our planet has been wiped out repeatedly by dark matter in cycles caused by the passage of Earth through the Milky Way and that the planet could possibly be entering the so-called danger zone.  The researcher said the invisible dark matter could trigger geological events and extraterrestrial impacts that could lead to extinction of life on Earth.

The asteroid that hit near Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico 66 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs. Other mass extinctions happened during extended periods of geological disruptions which include volcanic eruptions. Rampino said these kinds of catastrophes appear to happen every about 30 million years.

Much is still unknown about dark matter, the existence of which is known because of its gravitational pull on other objects. While dark matter is invisible, clouds of dark matter may perturb the orbits of distant comets and this could cause them to fall into the inner solar system and potentially strike Earth.

Rampino explained this could directly affect our planet because as the solar system passes through this haze of particles, some are trapped by the gravity on Earth. The particles orbit the core of the planet and eventually fall to its center when they interact with each other or with normal matter and then release energy that gets transformed into heat.

"This new source of periodic heating in the Earth's interior might explain a similar ∼30 Myr periodicity observed in terrestrial geologic activity, which may also be involved in extinctions," Rampino wrote in his study. "These results suggest that cycles of geological and biological evolution on the Earth may be partly controlled by the rhythms of Galactic dynamics."

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