We spend a lot of time worrying about asteroids, but what about another star?
Well, in around 1.35 million years, we'll find out. Scientists have been plotting the course of a star, Gliese 710, which currently sits in the constellation of Serpens some 64 light-years from Earth. Turns out, it's headed our way, reports Forbes — though you need to put that concept into astronomical perspective.
The star will be passing through our solar system's Oort Cloud, a shell of countless comets and other bodies in the outer reaches of the sun's gravitational influence, and the star is likely to slingshot comets all over the solar system.
“Gliese 710 will trigger an observable cometary shower with a mean density of approximately 10 comets per year, lasting for three to 4 million years,” write the study's co-authors, Filip Berski and Piotr A. Dybczyński. Their paper was published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, a research journal, and is based on new information from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission, allowing them to calculate the path more accurately than before.
The brightest and fastest object in the night sky
Gliese 710 is only half the size of our sun, but in 1.35 million years, the star will appear as the brightest and fastest object in the night sky. It's bizarre to imagine that our solar system will house a whole other star, even if it's only supposed to pass through the Oort Cloud. Gliese 710 won't be sticking around; eventually it will curb around the sun and be on its way, but not before wreaking some havoc.
Scientists calculated that Gliese 710 is the star that's expected to come closest to us within the next 10 million years (which is as far ahead as scientists could project), but it's not the only close encounter. As many as 14 other stars could come within 3 light-years distance in the next few million years, and there are numerous fainter, red dwarf stars with unknown trajectories that could be headed our way too.