Mars Earth NASAThere’s no shortage of candidates for the cause of the mass extinctions of prehistory. But experts have found flaws in every one.

Asteroid impact at Chicxulub, Yucatan clearly played a role in the Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65,000,000 years ago, though scientists point to the serious disruptions that had begun hundreds of thousands of years before with the basalt flows of the Deccan Traps.1 Giant basalt lava flows that poisoned the atmosphere and oceans played a role in four or perhaps all five major extinctions. But other enormous basalt flows have not caused extinctions, nor did they cause the tsunamis associated with various extinctions.2  Researchers have suggested many other mechanisms, but there’s no consensus at all.

Lurking in the background, however, is a quite plausible cause, one that would have possessed the power to set off the volcanic activity, air pollution, sea level shifts, loss of oxygen in oceans, climate changes, and other phenomena associated with the extinctions.

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A new theory of the origin of the terrestrial planets—that Jupiter’s gravity pulled them inward from the outer solar system—solves longstanding scientific riddles and offers a rich agenda for further investigation.

The origin and distribution of water on the terrestrial planets make a good place to start investigating this theory. Radiation pressure and the solar wind pushed water molecules out beyond the “snow line” around 4.5 AU, so how did Earth come to have a relatively significant amount of water?

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ring_of_fire_crop_sharp_350pxThere are good reasons to think that Earth and Mars originally formed a single protoplanet—Terramars—outside the orbit of Jupiter.  Then, over 4 billion years ago, Terramars was pulled by Jupiter’s powerful gravitational field past the gas giant.  As Terramars neared Jupiter, tidal forces heated it to the melting point, and Jupiter tore Mars away from Earth, leaving the Pacific Basin.  Both planets, now turned into red-hot comets, sped off into the inner solar system.

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