Is Planet Nine behind mass extinctions on Earth? One astrophysicist says yes

planet nine mass extinction comet star
Planet Nine has seen its share of headlines lately, but its newfound popularity is also bringing back theories that the yet-to-be-discovered planet may have affected, and may in the future affect, life here on Earth.

Retired astrophysicist and current University of Arkansas math professor Dr. Daniel Whitmire says Planet Nine’s suspected multi-million year orbit around the sun may trigger comet bombardments. His analysis suggests this happens about once every 27 million years.

How does this happen? Planet Nine passes through the Kuiper Belt, a region of space beyond the outermost planets that is the breeding ground for comets and asteroids alike. As the planet passes through this region, it disrupts the paths being followed by comets, sending some of them hurtling toward the inner solar system.

Whitmire’s research found that some of these comets not only would end up striking Earth, but that they would also disintegrate in large numbers, effectively lowering the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth. Furthermore, Whitmire was able to match the theorized interval of Planet Nine’s orbit through the Kuiper Belt to mass extinction events here on Earth, lending credence to paleontologist theories that the death of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures may indeed have been the result of comet impacts.

“There is not a perfect one-to-one correlation,” Whitmire told Digital Trends in an interview Friday. He attributed the events that did not correlate to statistical randomness. “Nonetheless the statistical analysis shows a strong regular period of 27 million years.”

Whitmire already showed back in 1985 — when he first started looking into the possibility of Planet Nine-related comet barrages — that the pattern held for at least the last 250 million years. Newer research suggests that these barrages may actually have been happening for as much as 500 million years, and quite possibly longer.

The latest comet shower is thought to have occurred around 11 or so million years ago, around the time of the Middle Miocene mass extinction. Before that, similar events were thought to have occurred around 38 and 66 million years ago, the latter thought to be the comets that killed off the dinosaurs.

Don’t ring the alarm bells though for the next bombardment. Humankind will likely be dramatically evolved (if hopefully not long gone) by the time Planet Nine passes through the Kuiper Belt again. “Modern man doesn’t have worry about the next comet shower for 16 million years,” Whitman quipped.

Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.