In "2001: A Space Odyssey," scientists on the Moon dig up an artifact of an alien civilization -- a monolith that blasts a radio signal toward the outer solar system. The site of this discovery was Tycho, a crater that's one of the Moon's most prominent features. It's in view near the line that divides day and night. Bright "rays" of material radiate out from the crater like beams of light around the Sun.
There's no evidence of alien artifacts in Tycho, but there may be a connection with an event on Earth that gives it a sci-fi feel: the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Scientists in the U.S. and the Czech Republic reported the possible connection a few months ago. They based their finding on observations of a family of asteroids, craters on Earth and the Moon, and on computer simulations.
They suggest that a large asteroid was blasted apart about 160 million years ago when it was hit by another asteroid. Many of the fragments were tugged into orbits that brought them close to Earth. About 108 million years ago, one of the fragments may have hit the Moon, forming Tycho crater. And 65 million years ago, an even bigger fragment may have hit Earth, creating the Chicxulub crater near the Yucatan. This impact drastically altered Earth's climate, killing most of the planet's life -- including the dinosaurs.
A few fragments of the original asteroid still patrol the inner solar system -- dangerous artifacts from a cosmic collision.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2007
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