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Earth supports complex life partially thanks to our sun's galactic orbit, as it steers clear of the inhospitable center of the galaxy, where life probably couldn't survive.
A NASA scientist has discovered the time scale of dinosaurs, tracking their evolution and demise by assembling stunning animations showing the Earth on the opposite side of the Milky Way during their lifetime, reports Business Insider.
Tracing our solar system's movement through the Milky Way, Dr. Jessie Christiansen shows mankind has been present on Earth for just five million years – less than nine per cent of the time of the dinosaurs.
I have always been interested in galactic archeology, but I don't think this is what they meant.
Did you know that dinosaurs lived on the other side of the Galaxy? pic.twitter.com/ngGCAu0fYU
– Dr. Jessie Christiansen (@aussiastronomer) August 28, 2019
Christiansen says she conceived the idea to give an animated illustration of this timeline when she was leading a stunning party at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. At the time she mentioned that our solar system was across the galaxy when dinosaurs roamed.
"That was the first time I realized that those time scales – archaeological, fossil-record time scales and astronomical time scales – actually kind of matched together," Christiansen was quoted as saying by the outlet.
"Then I had this idea that I could map out dinosaur evolution through the galaxy's rotation."
According to Christiansen, it took her about four hours to make the movie using timed animations in PowerPoint.
Like Earth and other planets orbiting the Sun, our host star is actually traveling around the Milky Way galaxy at an average speed of 230 kilometers per second.
AP Photo / Daniel Reinhardt
The milky way and traces of meteors illuminate the sky over Burg on the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn, northern Germany, Friday, April 20, 2018 when the Lyrids meteor shower went down
It takes the solar system roughly 250 million years to make a complete trip and during that time the entire Milky Way is travels through the universe.
“The animation kind of makes it look like we're coming back to the same spot, but in reality the whole galaxy has moved a long way. More like doing a spiral through space. As the whole galaxy's moving and rotating around the center, it kind of creates this spiral, ”Christiansen explains.
So in the solar system's rotation around the galactic center, we're not returning to a fixed point.
Still, although "neighborhood" is different from last time, Earth is not drastically different.
It still supports complex life, in part thanks to our sun's galactic orbit which does not approach the inhospitable center of the galaxy.
"Our solar system does not travel to the center of the galaxy and then back again. We always stay this distance," Christiansen said.
The dinosaurs roamed the Earth for approximately 177 million years before the deadly asteroid impact that is believed to have led to their eventual extinction.
An artist's impression of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.
The new animation from Christiansen shows that 66 million years ago, when the asteroid hit Earth, our planet was on the other side of the Milky Way.
By comparison, mankind has been present on Earth for just five million years – less than nine per cent of the time of the dinosaurs.
It is still subject to debate as to how long the dinosaurs managed to survive after the initial impact.
This artist's rendering provided by Mark Witton in April 2017 shows a Teleocrater rhadinus, a four-legged center, a meat-eating reptile and a close relative of dinosaurs, eating a relative of mammals, Cynognathus.
Previous research from the University of Berkley, California, believes there is evidence to suggest non-avian dinosaurs survived about 30,000 years later, and they eventually went extinct due to the impact of 100,000 years of drastic climate change.
Others, however, believe the beasts died out for months, with palaeontologist Ken Lacovara previously saying:
"They died suddenly and were buried quickly."