Reasons to Believe

A Family Breakup Kills the Dinosaurs

In 1980 Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez and his geologist son Walter Alvarez proposed a provocative theory. They suggested that the Earth had been struck by an asteroid in its past to explain the unusual amount of iridium in what is called the K-T extinction boundary of the Earth’s fossil record. Iridium is an element that occurs only at low levels on Earth, but is present at high levels in meteorites. The K-T boundary is dated at 65 million years ago and the suggested impact is believed to be the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Ten years after their proposal, evidence was discovered suggesting that a huge crater off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Central America was the place where this impact occurred. While their theory and the impact evidence are now well-accepted in the scientific community, until recently finding the source of such an impactor had not been as successful.

In a paper published in the September 6, 2007 issue of Nature, scientists have presented a remarkable study of a cluster of asteroid fragments referred to as the Baptistina asteroid family (BAF). The largest member, 298 Baptistina, was discovered in 1890. This new study concluded that the family formed approximately 160 million years ago when a collision occurred between a very large 110-mile-diameter asteroid and a smaller body in the inner region of the main asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

According to the numerical simulations done in the study, this breakup event, together with its location, age, and the size of the remaining fragments, provides a remarkably well-suited scenario for explaining a surge of near-earth objects about 100 million years ago. Fragments from this breakup were slowly delivered by the gravitational interactions of the rest of the solar system into orbits that eventually led to collisions with the inner planets. One such fragment accounts for the Earth being struck (with 90% probability) by a projectile 65 million years ago. In addition to hitting the Earth, the authors believe that the same process is responsible for the Tycho crater on the Moon.

What does this have to do with RTB’s creation model? Well, one key aspect of our model is that the Earth and the solar system are a few billion years old. Plus, the sudden disappearance of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago fits with the notion of a Creator who created life-forms, allowed many to go extinct, and then created new ones (Psalm 104:29-30). In this study, we find a compelling correspondence between events that occurred in the asteroid belt 160 million years ago and those that occurred here on Earth 65 million years ago. The more consistent evidence we find for various aspects of the Earth’s history, the more we can be convinced our model is correct.

Subjects: Dinosaurs, Mass Extinctions/Extinctions

Dr. David Rogstad

Dr. Dave Rogstad received his PhD in physics from Caltech and worked over 30 years for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though now retired, Dave continues to serve as an RTB board member and participates regularly in several RTB podcasts.