Cosmic impacts tied to the rise and fall of dinosaurs
RUTGERS NEWS RELEASE
Posted: May 17, 2002

  Track
Example of small theropod track (Grallator parallelum) from near Boyertown, Pennsylvania. Track length about three inches. Photo: P.E. Olsen
 
New abilities to detect layers of "space dust" in the Earth's crust are building geological evidence that comets or asteroids colliding with Earth not only helped wipe out the dinosaurs, but may have originally helped bring them to prominence about 200 million years ago.

Dennis V. Kent, Rutgers geology professor, was among a team of geologists who analyzed footprints, bones and plant spores in more than 70 locations in eastern North America, as well as iridium dust and magnetic fields in four corresponding sediment layers in the Newark Basin. The team published its findings, "Ascent of Dinosaurs Linked to an Iridium Anomaly at the Triassic-Jurassic Boundary," in the May 17 edition of the journal Science.

"Finding the element iridium, which is common in space objects, creates a time marker for comet or asteroid impacts." said Kent. "Correlating the finds with evidence of plant and animal life helps to tell us what happened."

Using high-resolution spectrometry technology provided by Christian Koeberl of the University of Vienna in Austria, the scientists were able to make unprecedented comparisons of iridium levels in the parts-per-trillion range. Kent said another important find was a thin zone in the sediment, just below the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, where the magnetic field is reversed. This reverse zone can now serve as a marker to help identify the boundary location in the geological record.

"Our research adds to the speculation that there was a comet or asteroid impact about 200 million years ago, followed relatively quickly by the rising dominance of dinosaur populations of the Jurassic period," said Kent. He suggested that the effects of the impact killed off or reduced many competitive species, clearing the way for dinosaurs to adapt and flourish.

"Dinosaurs went on to dominate for the next 135 million years," he said, noting that their extinction is now commonly attributed to the ecological effects of yet another comet or asteroid impact -- this one about 65 million years ago.

Besides his work at Rutgers, Kent is associated with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, as are his co-authors E.C. Rainforth and P.E. Olsen. Olsen's earlier research about Triassic-Jurassic transitions inspired the project. Other co-authors include Koeberl and H. Huber of the University of Vienna, H.-D. Sues of the Royal Ontario Museum, A. Montanari of the Osservatorio Geologio do Coldigiocom in Italy, S.J. Fowell of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and M.J. Szajna and B.W. Hartline, fossil collectors of Reading, Pa.

DVD is here!
The first in a series of space DVDs is now available from the Astronomy Now Store. Relive shuttle Columbia's February flight to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope in spectacular DVD quality.
 U.S. STORE
 U.K. & WORLDWIDE STORE

Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).
Enter your e-mail address:

Apollo patches
The Apollo Patch Collection: Includes all 12 Apollo mission patches plus the Apollo Program Patch. Save over 20% off the Individual price.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

John Glenn Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The historic first orbital flight by an American is marked by this commemorative patch for John Glenn and Friendship 7.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Celebrate the shuttle program

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This special commemorative patch marks the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Anniversary Shuttle Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This embroidered patch commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program. The design features the space shuttle Columbia's historic maiden flight of April 12, 1981.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Mercury anniversary

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!


Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alan Shephard's historic Mercury mission with this collectors' item, the official commemorative embroidered patch.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Soviet Space
For the first time ever available in the West. Rocket & Space Corporation Energia: a complete pictorial history of the Soviet/Russian Space Program from 1946 to the present day all in full color. Available from our store.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Viking patch
This embroidered mission patch celebrates NASA's Viking Project which reached the Red Planet in 1976.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 7 DVD
For 11 days the crew of Apollo 7 fought colds while they put the Apollo spacecraft through a workout, establishing confidence in the machine what would lead directly to the bold decision to send Apollo 8 to the moon just 2 months later.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Gemini 12
Gemini 12: The NASA Mission Reports covers the voyage of James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin that capped the Gemini program's efforts to prove the technologies and techniques that would be needed for the Apollo Moon landings. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mission Report
Gemini 7: The NASA Mission Reports covers this 14-day mission by Borman and Lovell as they demonstrated some of the more essential facts of space flight. Includes CD-ROM.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Apollo 12 tribute DVD set

New! Featuring the jovial crew of Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean, the Apollo 12 mission was struck by lightning shortly after liftoff but proceeded on the second successful exploration voyage to the lunar surface. This three-disc DVD brings the mission to life with extraordinary detail.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Fallen Heroes special patch
This special 12-inch embroidered patch commemorates the U.S. astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice, honoring the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Women in Space
Women of Space: Cool Careers on the Final Frontier is for girls, young women, and anyone else interested in learning about exciting careers in space exploration. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.