Go ahead and take a moment to think back to those blissful years of childhood, all those mandatory naps and the impish grins that let you get away with anything. Ah, the good old days.
Well, I’m willing to venture a guess that right about the time that the sand box constituted your primary social networking site, you were already dreaming big for the rest of your life.
For many of us, that meant honing our (cardboard) spaceship flying skills for the day when NASA would call on us for some daring new feat of space exploration. But some children’s dreams strayed in other directions, perhaps toward those goliaths of ancient history, those part bird/part reptile/part dragon creatures, and the inspiration for countless movies from “The Land Before Time” to “Jurassic Park” — dinosaurs! But what do dinos have to do with astronomy, you ask? Well, let me tell you.
Once upon a time, over four and a half billion years ago, there was a cloud of interstellar dust and hydrogen gas drifting listlessly through the innocuous outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy. That mysterious agent of the universe we know as gravity began working its magic, and soon our humble cloud had condensed into a tightly packed, boiling, churning proto-star. It became so intensely hot in the bowels of our young Sun that protons were compelled to quantum tunnel right through that Coulomb Barrier that kept them from their similarly charged proton comrades, and just like that fusion had begun, thrusting the Sun into stardom.
As the protons were doing their thing in core of the Sun, the tiny particles of dust and ice swirling around the outside of our young star also became acquainted with each other. Casual meet and greets (Mr. Dust Particle, meet Ms. Ice Particle…) turned into raging discos of jump-jive-and-wailing matter, and before you know it, four terrestrial planets had formed and were tearing their way around the Sun. And, as you are (hopefully) well aware, one of these budding planetesimals was our very own Earth.
And then a whole lot of messy geology and biology later… enter the dinosaurs. These mysterious critters — some mammoth and some not much larger than your neighbor’s terrier, some bumbling leaf-eating herbivores and some bearing slightly sharper teeth — have captured the imagination of more than a few homework-plagued, daydreaming youths over the years. But whatever happened to our Jurassic Park friends?
This is where astronomy comes in. 65.5 million years ago, while T-rex and his buddies were minding their own business and devouring everything in sight, a solitary asteroid was plodding along its fateful path, heading straight for earth. This asteroid, with a diameter of 10-17 km, set its sights on Chicxulub (pronounced chik-su-loob) on the Yucatan Peninsula of current day Mexico and let gravity do the rest.
Source from Great Site: http://astrophysics.gsfc.nasa.gov
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Posted by Dinosaurs World at 11:04 PM