Looking up at the vast horizon, we feel safe and protected from the cosmos. We are confident that nothing bad would happen as we are well protected from the dangers of space. Nevertheless, when we look at our planet from a galactic perspective, the earth is, in fact, nothing more than a small spec among the countless other stars.
There are phenomena in the universe that are so powerful that they can wipe out Earth from the face of the solar system in just a cosmic blink. Of course, the earth is going to end eventually because the sun will swell up and swallow the earth, or push it out of orbit. However, there are other more probable scenarios you may not have heard about.
Disasters From Space
These scenarios are highly improbable, but keep in mind that a few of the following scenarios have occurred at least once in the earth’s history.
Planets are usually tethered to a solar system, and they orbit their stars just like the earth orbits the sun. However, due to some cosmic calamity, a planet might get ejected from its orbit and gets catapulted through space. Such a rogue planet might enter a solar system and disrupt other planets by changing their orbit or outright crashing into them. Remember, this event is speculated to have already happened in the earth’s past: A rogue planet named Theia is thought to have crashed into the earth, eventually forming our moon from the subsequent debris and dust.
Today, if another rogue planet manages to make its way into our solar system, it might:
- Throw us out of the orbit – hurtling us towards the sun, or
- Fling us so far away from the sun, freezing the planet into a solid block of ice, or
- Cause other neighbouring planets to collide with the earth
Either way, it means the end of life as we know it. On the bright side, the probability of this happening is extremely low.
The dinosaurs roamed the earth 65 million years ago. They had ruled the earth for roughly 165 million years and were the most successful group of animals on the earth. However, 65 million years ago, an asteroid between 11-80 kilometres in diameter smashed into the earth (For reference, the Mariana Trench is just under 11 kilometres deep).
The impact was so severe that it blasted a crater 180 kilometres wide. Most of the asteroid was vaporized, and some of the debris was sent back into space where they orbited and fell back to earth. This initiated fire around the world, and it resulted in millions of tons of smoke and dust kicking up into the atmosphere and blocking out the sunlight for an aeon. This caused an imbalance in the ecosystem and the food chain, triggering mass extinctions around the globe. If such an asteroid were to crash into earth today, then we would go the way of the dinosaurs.
Also Read: KT Extinction – The Extinction of Dinosaurs
These are some of the ways by which the earth could end. For more interesting concepts, register at BYJU’S Biology.