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Mapping the location of terrestrial impacts and extinctions onto the spiral arm structure of the Milky Way

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2018

Michael P Gillman*
School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln, LN6 7TS, UK
Hilary E Erenler
University of Northampton, Faculty of Arts, Science and Technology, Avenue Campus, St George's Avenue, Northampton, NN2 6JD
Phil J Sutton
School of Mathematics and Physics, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln, LN6 7TS, UK
Author for correspondence: Michael P Gillman, E-mail:


High-density regions within the spiral arms are expected to have profound effects on passing stars. Understanding of the potential effects on the Earth and our Solar System is dependent on a robust model of arm passage dynamics. Using a novel combination of data, we derive a model of the timings of the Solar System through the spiral arms and the relationship to arm tracers such as methanol masers. This reveals that asteroid/comet impacts are significantly clustered near the spiral arms and within specific locations of an average arm structure. The end-Permian and end-Cretaceous extinctions emerge as being located within a small star-formation region in two different arms. The start of the Solar System, greater than 4.5 Ga, occurs in the same region in a third arm. The model complements geo-chemical data in determining the relative importance of extra-Solar events in the diversification and extinction of life on Earth.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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