As I’ve mentioned many times, I love astronomy and space. It has always had a fascination for me from my teenage years. I used to read books on astronomy and just love the topic.
But in all that time I have never come across what I’m about to tell you.
In all that time, the universe was portrayed as vast numbers of stars making up galaxies and they are orbiting in these vast formations over many hundreds of millions of years. It seemed so ordered.
However, in recent years, I began to hear of rogue stars and rogue planets that scientists are coming across. These are lone stars or lone planets that have been tossed into space and are flying through galaxies or even outside galaxies. Sometimes they are moving at incredible speeds. They are just blasting across space and will do so perhaps for billions of years. But in other cases they could actually crash into other stars.
However, these rogues exist vast distances from us.
A few years back, the first ever piece of floating rock from outside our solar system was detected flying into and through our solar system. That was cool and new.
But the other day, I learned of something that made my jaw drop.
It turns out that in recent years scientists realised that there have been some stars, mostly smallish ones, that have actually passed right close to our solar system! They’ve been so close that they’ve been visible from Earth. They can even cause comets to be dislodged from the Oort cloud that exists far away in the distant depths of our solar system.
One such star passed by only 70,000 years ago.
And in 1.3 million years we’re going to have an even closer encounter with a bigger star that is 60% the size of our sun! It will dislodge lots of comets in the Oort cloud.
Scientists now estimate that stars (many of them small and very dim) actually pass close to our solar system every 50,000 years!
This is generally not dangerous, but it could be. However, it can also affect the Earth.
Such events could have massive implications for the past.
I did quite a bit of digging and this is a newly discovered and established fact. It’s going to be crazy what our scientists are going to discover.
Luckily, any such encounters can be detected (normally) long before they happen unless the object is cold and dark in which case they will need to develop methods of detecting it.
This is the weirdest discovery I’ve ever come across.
And it has some cool aspects to it. We could send spacecraft to intercept these stars.
I suppose we could even have spacecraft that are gravitationally caught by such stars and they ride along or are flung further into space at higher speeds.
It’s very bizarre. It obviously does not happen often. But 50,000 years is not long in geologic and astronomical time.