Star said to be on a collision course with solar system; has potential of disruption

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If a recent research paper is to be believed a rogue star known as HIP 85605 and one of the binary system in the Hercules constellation some 16 light years away is en route to a probable collision course with our solar system, but before you start worrying there are few reassuring caveats that you need to know about.

According to Dr. Coryn Bailer-Jones of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany HIP 85605 will cruise past our Solar System at a distance of 0.04 parsecs – equivalent to 8,000 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun (8,000 AUs). Further this event is not going to happen for another 240,000 to 470,000 years from now, and if it does happen, it will not affect Earth or any other planet’s orbit around the Sun.

The star is expected to have an effect on the icy planetesimals laden Oort Cloud and could cause serious disruption. The close encounter could blow away planetesimals into the space and some could be sent hurtling towards Earth. This could be a problem to Earthlings – assuming that humanity is still around for another 240,000 years or more.

Bailer-Jones, in his paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, says that such “close encounters” between stars isn’t a common occurrence but on astronomical timescale, they are common and HIP 85605’s close shave is one of several predicted to take place in the coming years.

The researcher has studied as many as 50,000 stars and out of the many said to be coming close to our solar system, HIP 85605 is the only one expected to come within a single parsec. He is 90 per cent confident that this event will occur; however, he added that if astronomy is incorrect, the next closest encounter will happen when a K7 dwarf dubbed GL 710 is predicted to pass our solar system within 0.10 – 0.44 parsecs.

Bailer-Jones added that last time such an encounter happened was some 3.8 million years ago when gamma Microscopii – a G7 giant having mass two and a half times that of our Sun – came within 0.35-1.34 parsec of our system. He is 90 per cent confident that such an event took place.