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Old 09-06-2007, 03:16 PM   #1
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Three Body Problem Wipes Out Dinosaurs

A joint U.S.-Czech team from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Charles University in Prague suggests that the parent object of asteroid (298) Baptistina disrupted when it was hit by another large asteroid, creating numerous large fragments that would later create the Chicxulub crater on the Yucatan Peninsula as well as the prominent Tycho crater found on the Moon.

The team of researchers, including Dr. William Bottke (SwRI), Dr. David Vokrouhlicky (Charles University, Prague) and Dr. David Nesvorny (SwRI), combined observations with several different numerical simulations to investigate the Baptistina disruption event and its aftermath. A particular focus of their work was how Baptistina fragments affected the Earth and Moon.

At approximately 170 kilometers in diameter and having characteristics similar to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, the Baptistina parent body resided in the innermost region of the asteroid belt when it was hit by another asteroid estimated to be 60 kilometers in diameter. This catastrophic impact produced what is now known as the Baptistina asteroid family, a cluster of asteroid fragments with similar orbits. According to the team's modeling work, this family originally included approximately 300 bodies larger than 10 kilometers and 140,000 bodies larger than 1 kilometer.

Once created, the newly formed fragments’ orbits began to slowly evolve due to thermal forces produced when they absorbed sunlight and re-radiated the energy away as heat. According to Bottke, "By carefully modeling these effects and the distance traveled by different-sized fragments from the location of the original collision, we determined that the Baptistina breakup took place 160 million years ago, give or take 20 million years."

Fascinating, although the evidence is always going to be in the rocks.
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