Planet Earth enters intergalactic danger zone where comets rain and may destroy life

New York, USA: Planet Earth is travelling through a dangerous part of the Milky Way which may have caused the death of the dinosaurs.

That's the claim from a scientist at New York University, who said this intergalactic danger zone could cause comets to rain down on Earth.

Our solar system is part of the constantly moving Milky Way galaxy, which is shaped like a flattened spiral.

As we spin around the galaxy, our solar system slowly bobs up and down.

Right in the middle of this mammoth pancake of stars is an area known as the galactic plane.

Whenever our solar system passes through this area, huge gravitational forces push and pull on the comets which orbit our Sun, potentially sending them on a collision course with Planet Earth.

It is thought that huge extinctions take place on Earth roughly every 30 million years, which is also how often we speed through the danger disc.

Dr Michael Rampino of New York University said: "We are essentially there now. Several scientists have suggested that we are at present in a comet shower."

He added to fears about the Milky Way's murderous middle by claiming it could contain a disc of dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to make up much of the universe.

The gravitational forces of this dark matter could cause comets and asteroids to rain down to earth.

But according to Rampino, it could even cause the Earth's core to become super-heated, which would cause massive volcanic eruptions and potentially "rift apart" the continents.

"We are fortunate enough to live on a planet that is ideal for the development of complex life," Rampino added. "But the history of the Earth is punctuated by large scale extinction events, some of which we struggle to explain.

"It may be that dark matter - the nature of which is still unclear but which makes up around a quarter of the universe - holds the answer. Dark matter may have a direct influence on life on Earth."