The Sun has an obvious and highly significant influence on the Earth, and there is strong evidence that changes in the Earth's orbit has influenced our climate on timescales of tens to hundreds of thousands of years. But it is at least plausible that astronomical phenomena have had an influence on much longer timescales, of up to tends of millions of years. This could be related to the passage of the Sun through the Galaxy, in which its environment may have changed in relevant ways as the Sun passes through the Galactic disk, through spiral arms, or near to regions of intense stars formation. Nearby supernovae could plausibly harm the terrestrial biosphere, and close stellar encounters or the influence of the Galactic tide could have changed the rate of comet impacts on the Earth.

The astroimpacts project at the MPIA is investigation into the influence of astronomical phenomena on the Earth. This involves modelling the geological records of climate, biodiversity and impact cratering. We are constructing models of the Galaxy and of the Sun's orbit through in order to quantify the possible effects and to investigate possible correlations with the geological record.

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