UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
When Earth was impacted by a meteorite when dinosaurs possibly got extinct, did the orbit of Earth was altered by the huge impact, at least instantaneously?
Question Date: 2020-11-01
Answer 1:

No. It was not affected by the KT impact 65 million years ago. Keep in mind that the Earth has a diameter of 12,600 kilometers whereas the estimated size of the asteroid that collided with EARTH ON THAT TERRIBLE DAY 65 MILLION YEARS AGO WAS 10 km. Hence the inertia associated with the motion of the Earth around the Sun is HUGE compared to any tiny change imparted by the KT impactor.

The impact DID affect the surface of the Earth. The impact lifted millions upon millions of tons of dust to heights greater than 50 km which was then dispersed throughout the atmosphere and created darkness for many months. This would have cooled the earth’s atmosphere and killed off many organisms…. But he earth’s motions around the sun and its spin on its axis would not have been affected.

Answer 2:

The Earth is about 400 million times bigger than the meteorite that hit Earth. If the Earth were the size of Santa Barbara then the meteorite would have been the size of a house. But even though the meteorite is small compared to Earth it would still change Earth's orbit a tiny bit.

Earth's orbit already changes a bit during a year because our orbit isn't a perfect circle. In January we're about 3% closer to the sun than in July. The impact would have changed the orbit much less than this change that we experience every year.

There's a nice website that calculates impact effects ( impact effects ) that you may be interested in as well. The "global damages" tab has information on how much an impact could change how long a day lasts (not the orbit).

Answer 3:

The Chixiclub impact, which wiped out the dinosaurs (except for birds!), was large enough to devastate Earth's surface. On the other hand, the mass of the rock itself was probably no more than a few millionths of a percent of Earth's mass, maybe less, so the impact on Earth's orbit w

Answer 4:

The meteorite was about the size of Mount Everest which is absolutely tiny compared to size of the Earth. No, it did not appreciably affect the Earth's orbit. The Earth is just too big.

Also, regarding dinosaurs - there is one major group of dinosaurs, the birds, which survived!

Answer 5:

It looks like the answer is NO. No. To significantly change the Earth's orbit, you would have to impart a very great change to the Earth's momentum. ... Not even the largest asteroids have sufficient mass and kinetic energy to make much of a difference to the Earth's momentum.

Source: BBC Science.


Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use