Research published by a faculty member of the University of Arkansas Department of Mathematical Sciences suggests periodic mass extinctions on our planet, as evidenced by the fossil record, might have been caused by the suspected ninth planet in the Solar System.
In his study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Daniel Whitmire claims that the as yet undiscovered Planet X triggers comet showers linked to mass die-offs on Earth at intervals of approximately 27 million years.
Whitmire has been writing on the potential link between Planet X and terrestrial events since 1985. At that time, there were three competing explanations for the recurrence of comet showers: a ninth planet beyond Neptune, the existence of a sister star to the Sun, and vertical oscillations of the Sun as it orbits the galaxy.
With the last two hypotheses already consigned to the dustbin of history as inconsistent with the paleontological record, Planet X looms large again.
The theory goes that as the ninth planet passes through the Kuiper belt every 27 million years, it knocks comets into the inner Solar System, some of which end up smashing into the Earth, while others disintegrate and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth as they get closer to the Sun.
Previous estimates put the idea of regular comet showers as dating back around 250 million years, but new research shows it might have been taking place already 500 million years ago.
Whitmire says what’s really exciting is the possibility that a distant planet may have had a significant influence on the evolution of life on Earth.
“I’ve been part of this story for 30 years,” he said. “If there is ever a final answer I’d love to write a book about it.”