According to some scientists and astronomers the Earth is now entering a particularly dangerous period that makes it increasingly vulnerable to sudden disaster
from the Universe.
The reason for this concerns our planets huge cycle around the centre of its own Galaxy - The Milky Way. This journey takes well over 200 million years to
complete, and evidence shows that certain points in this journey expose our planet to a significantly greater chance of a Cosmic disaster involving comets and asteroids.
It is well known that major extinction's have occurred at roughly thirty million year intervals. The last one - apart from
the 6th extinction which unfortunately is a part of daily life - occurred over thirty million years ago, and some fear that another great disaster may soon be on the way.
Denser star fields.
The reason for this pessimism is that various points along the Earthís journey around the Galaxy bring it into
considerably denser fields of stars and space debris. Essentially the Earthís path is similar to a fair ground carousel bobbing up and down but still carried onwards and
around the centre of the Galaxy. At times this bobbing brings it into tightly packed areas of stars and this is when the principal danger occurs.
This danger is manifold bringing with it the risk of immersion in swirling clouds of toxic space dust or exposure to the
immense forces of supernovas - exploding stars that even at distances of hundreds of light years can still generate destructive forces capable of wiping out all life on Earth. Yet
potent though these forces are the main danger is from the proximity of nearby stars. As the Earth bobs into denser star regions the gravity from these stars is capable of dragging
in comets and asteroids and placing them on a collision course with Earth.
Thirty million year cycle.
The fact is that every thirty million years all life on Earth comes close to extinction, and it is surely no coincidence
that every thirty million years the planet enters the most tightly packed areas of our Solar System. The last time it did so was around a million years ago and since then there has
apparently been no major planet wide disaster. So can we breathe a huge sigh of relief that we have emerged from this danger zone relatively unscathed? The answer is no,
because according to experts it takes around 1 million years for the displaced comets and asteroids to make their way through to us. In other words around about now.
The Protection of Jupiter.
The pure and simple facts are that based on the threats that exist in the Universe, life here on Earth should have been
wiped out long ago. Yet somehow it has clung on, and at least part of the credit must go to the vast planet Jupiter.
This major gas ball of a planet - the largest in the Solar
System has an extremely powerful gravitational field stretching many millions of miles into space. For planet Earth this has been a massive help because Jupiter can literally sweep up Earth
bound comets and asteroids and suck them harmlessly towards extinction amidst its swirling gas clouds.
It would be no exaggeration to say that over the course of millions of years Jupiter has saved this planet on many
dozens of occasions. However there are times when comets and asteroids are able to elude the massive grasp of Jupiter and eventually one will again be on a collision course to hit us.
Two million year lifespan.
It may be disconcerting to consider but the average lifespan of any species on Earth is around 2 million years. This is
around the age of humanity, and many experts believe that the timeless cycle of extinction and regeneration means that soon we too will cease to exist and that very likely this
demise will be hastened by the advent of a comet or asteroid from the depths of the Galaxy.
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For more on comets and asteroids please turn to our
See also our special feature on Gamma Ray Bursts - the unbelievable forces that produce the largest explosions in our Universe.