Asteroid No Longer Dinosaur-killing Culprit

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on October 1, 2011
Featured in News to Know

Asteroid cleared of charges, but search continues for another cosmic culprit.

The Baptistina family asteroid believed to have been the culprit that caused mass extinction at the K-T boundary has been exonerated. Scientists who believe an extraterrestrial impact in Chixculub, Mexico, set off climactic derangement sufficient to destroy the dinosaurs (and many other species) have not changed their opinions. But the asteroid thought to have started the whole thing apparently wasn’t in the right place at the right time.

According to the old story, “Baptistina” collided with another asteroid between Mars and Jupiter about 160 million years ago. Fragments pin-balled out of the asteroid belt, and one crashed into the Yucatan peninsula. Scientists who accept this story believe a long time was required for the asteroid fragment to reach earth, so an impact 65 million years ago provides plenty of transit time.

The age of asteroid fragments is calculated from size estimates, which are in turn based on their reflectance.

The age of asteroid fragments is calculated from size estimates, which are in turn based on their reflectance. The size is used to calculate how long fragments require to reach their current orbital positions relative to their parent asteroids. But since the reflectance properties of asteroids are affected by the material they’re made of, these size estimates can be “off.”

New data has now come from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, which measures the infrared light emitted by asteroids. Since infrared emanations combined with reflectance do provide a more accurate way to assess asteroid size, project scientists believe they can now give a more accurate estimate of the time required for Baptistina’s fragments to have reached positions from which they could have been hurled toward Earth. After analysis of 1,056 asteroids in the Baptistina family, they believe Baptistina collided with a neighbor only 80 million years ago, giving only a too-short 15 million years for one of its fragments to reach Earth.

“As a result of the WISE science team's investigation, the demise of the dinosaurs remains in the cold case files,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for WISE. “The original calculations with visible light estimated the size and reflectivity of the Baptistina family members, leading to estimates of their age, but we now know those estimates were off. With infrared light, WISE was able to get a more accurate estimate, which throws the timing of the Baptistina theory into question.”

While the WISE data certainly improves the accuracy of asteroid size estimates, there is actually no way to know that the 1,056 “fragments” being measured actually came from the “parent” asteroid. If they did not, then simulations to estimate the travel time for those fragments are meaningless.

The idea that the K-T boundary marks mass extinction due to asteroid impact also has scientific problems.1 Proponents of the asteroid hypothesis believe the iridium in an iridium-rich layer at the K-T boundary came from the asteroid impact, the iridium spreading all over the world. Evolutionary geologists believe the iridium came from space because they think any iridium on earth should have sunk into our planet’s molten interior millions of years before the K-T layer was formed. There is, however, too much iridium to attribute to the dust from asteroid impact. Volcanoes, on the other hand, produce iridium and do tend to spread their dust clouds worldwide. Widespread volcanism would have been associated with the Flood, so Flood geology could explain the iridium deposition.

Furthermore, the global Flood explains the massive burials seen in the geologic column.

Furthermore, the global Flood explains the massive burials seen in the geologic column. Those layers represent not slow deposition and mass extinctions over millions of years, but rather the order of rapid burial during and soon after the Flood year. Many dinosaur footprints and body fossils are found in and below Cretaceous layers (the “K” in K-T). As the Flood waters rose, animals would have naturally sought higher ground. Footprints, often in patterns of uphill climbing, memorialize many animals’ final efforts to flee rising waters. Ultimately, even the larger dinosaurs were overwhelmed, swept from their habitats, and buried.

Rock layers above the Cretaceous are consistent with findings expected in the waning stage of the Flood and the post-Flood time. Fossils there include mammals and birds as well as reptiles and amphibians. The K-T boundary is explained by the biblical Flood model. The catastrophic cause of mass extinction of most of the dinosaur population was the global Flood. Those descended from the ones that got off the Ark eventually succumbed to the same sorts of pressures that cause extinction in animal populations today.

Scientists seeking to explain the K-T boundary by searching for another cosmic culprit would do better to re-examine the K-T “crime scene” on earth a little more closely. There, the evidence is consistent with God’s judgment in the form of the global Flood just as the Bible’s eyewitness account in Genesis chapters 6–9 describes.

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  1. See “Dinosaur Killer” and “Closing In On the K-T Boundary of Dinosaur Extinction.”


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