A new Harvard University study suggests that dinosaurs may have actually been killed off by a piece of a comet that crashed into the Earth 66 million years ago, rather than an asteroid as originally thought.
A pair of researchers from Harvard published their new theory in Scientific Reports this week. The study says there is evidence that the comet created the Chicxulub crater, which is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, People reported.
The area where the crater formed has been thought to be the source of a mass extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, People reported.
The Harvard researchers used statistical analysis and gravitational simulations to determine a comet fragment that hailed from as far as Jupiter may have made impact, People reported.
The researchers, Avi Loeb and Amir Siraj, spoke to the Harvard Gazette to further explain their theory.
"Basically, Jupiter acts as a kind of pinball machine," Siraj told The Harvard Gazette. "Jupiter kicks these incoming long-period comets into orbits that bring them very close to the sun."
The comets that fly that close to the sun are known as “sun grazers,” People reported.
Loeb said that a comet broken up by the sun is likely to strike to Earth.
"Our paper provides a basis for explaining the occurrence of this event," Loeb told the Harvard Gazzette. "We are suggesting that, in fact, if you break up an object as it comes close to the sun, it could give rise to the appropriate event rate and also the kind of impact that killed the dinosaurs."