A new study has been conducted by Coryn Bailer-Jones of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. Through their findings, they attempted to analyze the motion of more than 50,000 stars that are tracked by the European Space Agency’s Hipparchos satellite. The satellite has given particular attention to a star by the name of HIP 85605. The research reveals that there is a chance that HIP 85605 may reach our solar system and proceed to hurl a flurry of comets towards Earth.
Our solar system is enveloped in what is known as the Oort Cloud, an extended shell of icy objects, that exists in the outermost region of the solar system. The outer Oort Cloud is only loosely bound to the solar system. This means that it can be manipulated by the gravitational pull both of passing stars and of the Milky Way itself.
Once the star (HIP 85605) gets close enough to the Oort Cloud, the gravitational pull and push of HIP 85605 may be powerful enough to send comets towards the inner solar system. These are comets that were once within the cloud’s orbit. These threats, commonly known as Nemesis or death stars, have previously been confined to the work of science fiction and astronomical studies.
But don’t worry, you won’t need to lose any sleep over this, as HIP 85605 is not expected to get close enough to our solar system to have any affect for at least another 240,000 or 470,000 years.
The study found that out of the 42 stars that have the potential to approach within 2 parsecs (or 6.5 light years) of our own sun, HIP 85605 is the most likely to be within reach. For now, the star is 4.9 parsecs (16 light-years) away, but hundreds of thousands of years from today, it has a 90 percent chance of passing through at a distance of 0.04 to 0.2 parsecs (767 billion to 3.8 trillion miles). While this seems incredibly far away, it is in fact close enough to disrupt the comets that exist within the solar system’s Oort Cloud.
According to physicist John Bochanski of Rider University, who conducted a similar study several years ago, the research findings are no cause for panic. He states, “It’s important for astronomers to be leading the way in terms of identifying the risks that things in outer space may hold for us […] But as for this particular star wiping out humanity? I would probably bet against it.”
Even with the death star approaching, we can take comfort in knowing that humanity has a minimum of 240,000 years to find a solution. Furthermore, Bochanski points out that Jupiter has protected Earth before from cometary impacts thanks to its substantial gravitational energy, which has the effect of siphoning off comets like a vacuum.
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