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Space Science

Nearby Star Forecast To Skirt Solar System 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-doomed dept.
PipianJ writes "A recent preprint posted on arXiv by Vadim Bobylev presents some startling new numbers about a future close pass of one of our stellar neighbors. Based on studies of the Hipparcos catalog, Bobylev suggests that the nearby orange dwarf Gliese 710 has an 86% chance of skirting the outer bounds of the Solar System and the hypothesized Oort Cloud in the next 1.5 million years. As the Oort Cloud is thought to be the source of many long-period comets, the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth. This news about Gliese 710 isn't exactly new, but it's one of the first times the probability of this near-miss has been quantified."
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Nearby Star Forecast To Skirt Solar System

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  • by Heytunk (1559837) on Friday March 12, 2010 @06:40PM (#31458674)
    XENU SAVE US!
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey! Who removed the above post?

    • by icebike (68054)

      So this is after 2012 right?

      Phfft! No problem.

      • by tuxgeek (872962)
        Yeah, no shit!
        If you make it past 2012
        Then your next chance of certain death by comet impact will have to wait for 1.5 million years
    • by shar303 (944843)

      "Light peace and universal karma to you all. L. Ron has passed into the clouds of unknowing where the Self is Unself and the mind is as unmind and all that sort of thing. L. Ron may have melted from the earth like snow, but, one thing lives on. His money. Please send cheque to address below."
      The marharishi Veririshi, The Cayman Islands

      Truth is, Duke Nukem will save us, by the time this star comes anywhere near the sequel should be about ready.

  • by Kratisto (1080113) on Friday March 12, 2010 @06:47PM (#31458786)
    ... I'll get right on it!
    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday March 12, 2010 @07:17PM (#31459204)

      I knew that there was something fishy about those bonds that Goldman Sachs sold me . . . with a 2 million year maturity!

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You joke, but it would probably take 1.5 million years to develop a technology that is capable of diverting or destroying a star.

      • by martas (1439879)
        hmm, i don't know... destroying things is pretty easy...
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yes, on a scale that we can comprehend. Destroying people, buildings and maybe cities, but I doubt that we could destroy or move our own moon if we launched every single bomb in the world at it. Unless there is some breakthrough in spacetime manipulation, we can probably forget about destroying stars anytime, even in the very distant future.

          • Possible ways to destroy a star:

            1. Place a black hole near by so that it consumes the star. (Techniques for locating and moving a black hole are left as an exercise for the mad scientist attempting this)
            2. Use a Stargate to dial another gate on a planet near a black hole and send the gate into the star, eventually causing it to explode in a Supernova
            3. Send it on a collision course with a neutron star. When they collide, the combined mass increases the gravity so much, that they explode in an even bigger su

            • by t0p (1154575)

              3. Send it on a collision course with a neutron star. When they collide, the combined mass increases the gravity so much, that they explode in an even bigger supernova and result in a black hole. .

              But if we can reroute the star in question, why destroy it? Why not just reroute it..?

              ...Never mind. I like fireworks as much as the next kid. Carry on.

      • Red Matter?

      • OMG!!! Who modded this Interesting? I'd think infinity Naive is the only thing that's appropriate.
  • Nemesis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChefInnocent (667809) on Friday March 12, 2010 @06:51PM (#31458856)
    Would stars like this be a better theory for sending Oort Cloud material to the inner Solar system than a hypothetical unseen Nemesis [space.com]?
  • Looks like we're going to need some mega firepower to deal with this threat. Let's blow the bastage up to kingdom come before it gets here. We have here a cyber recreation of Dr. Teller, whose devoted his now vast computational facilities to devising a star destroying laser beam.

  • in the next 1.5 million years. As the Oort Cloud is thought to be the source of many long-period comets, the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth

    So, in 1.5 million years we might possibly be threatened by some comets? Something tells me that unless we do something incredibly stupid in the next 1.5 million years, a lot of humanity isn't going to be on earth.

    So, in short, how is this news? I don't think anyone is going to be around in 1.5 million years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Something tells me that unless we do something incredibly stupid in the next 1.5 million years... Never underestimate the capacity of human beings to do incredibly stupid things. But yes, we are currently in a race to see if we can establish sustainable populations off-planet before we or something else manages to wipe out all life here on earth. If we can't manage to win that race long before 1.5 million years from now, we're pretty much doomed as a species anyway.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by icebrain (944107)

        But yes, we are currently in a race to see if we can establish sustainable populations off-planet before we or something else manages to wipe out all life here on earth.

        Don't kid yourself. Only a very few of us are in the race. The vast majority gave up about three steps into the marathon, plopped down on the couch, and tuned into American Idol.

        Frankly, I think space colonization needs to be a national priority, right up there with energy independence. I'm talking a national effort for those two issues that would make the WWII industrial and military effort seem like an elementary school field day in comparison, because I think humanity will face an extinction threat by

        • by billstewart (78916) on Friday March 12, 2010 @08:47PM (#31460190) Journal

          Over the past century, space travel's usefulness has been limited to war, boosting political egos, threatening war, communications satellites, Earth-observation satellites, and a bit of astronomy. Yes, there have been commercial spinoffs, like developing Velcro andTang(tm) powdered orange-colored juice, but the engineers and scientists who could have built us something useful, like the franistan, where busy doing militarized space programs instead.

          You can't colonize space unless you can build a sustainable closed ecosystem that runs on sunlight, and we're not even close. We've built a few toy terrariums that failed, like the Biosphere, but our one significant experiment in terraforming has also been failing, making this planet look less and less like the Terra that we started with. We're not going to be able to build space colonies big enough to house a significant fraction of humanity until we've learned how to keep an already-mostly-working planet working.

          Furthermore, real space colonization is an immense project - it's not just throwing a few canned monkeys into orbit that for a few billion dollars of investment per seat, it's a project about as big and economically transformative as, say, Agriculture or Cities, and unless the Great Nanotech Singularity saves our asses without burying them in Grey Goo, we're going to have to keep the planet working well for probably as long a timescale as we've spent on those experiments. It's a Really Really big project, not one of those quick and dirty experiments like the Industrial Revolution or the Nation-State. Fortunately, 1.5 million years is a respectably long time - it's 100 times as long as we've had Civilization, 30-40 times as long as we've been our current species, more along the scale of how long we've had modern Acheulean stone tools or maybe fire.

          • by timmarhy (659436)
            to suggest the only advances that came out of the space industry are velcro and tang, is stupid and insulting to all the amazing engineers that worked in the field. it destroys any credability your rant had.
            • by tomhuxley (951364)
              Particularly insulting since both velcro and Tang predate the Space program (they were only popularized as a result their use by NASA, neither were invented for the Space program).
          • by icebrain (944107) on Friday March 12, 2010 @09:49PM (#31460704)

            I know there's a lot of work ahead of us. And I realize that "canned monkeys" aren't enough. But the big point is, real colonization has to start somewhere--ie, with lots of canned monkeys and solar-power satellites. Too many people want to sit around saying that all of this is too hard, that it isn't practical without advanced technologies that we don't currently have, and then decide "well, we can't do it right now, so why bother trying?" They conveniently forget that all of this Buck Rogers takes effort, not just bucks. Someone has to work on them; they don't just fall out of the sky ready to go. We're fooled by seeing all of these different advances in different fields (like computing), forgetting that the progress is happening because, well, somebody is doing the work. It just happens that most of that work can be applied to other fields. But things like nuclear space propulsion and vacuum-rated hardware don't have lots of other applications, and unless someone in the aerospace field works on them, unless somebody puts money towards them, they'll stagnate. We'll sit there forever wondering why we don't have all these fancy things, and yet never actually get them.

            I mean, we didn't sit there after the Wright brothers flew and decide that pursuing airplanes was a worthless endeavor, that we should just wait until we could build the 787, did we? Well, that's what we're doing with space. We've taken our first baby step, then given up on trying to walk because we can't yet run a marathon. Maybe we won't make it out into space before we manage to kill ourselves off... but I, for one, would rather go down fighting. And if that does happen, if we do die off and exist no more, then everything we've ever done in the name of progress and benefiting humanity, everything every person ever did, will be for naught.

            • by Nutria (679911) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:01AM (#31462780)

              I mean, we didn't sit there after the Wright brothers flew and decide that pursuing airplanes was a worthless endeavor, that we should just wait until we could build the 787, did we? Well, that's what we're doing with space. We've taken our first baby step, then given up on trying to walk because we can't yet run a marathon.

              That's a very bad analogy, since it's 10 metric butt-loads easier and simpler to fly than it is to get into orbit: planes don't need to worry about cosmic radiation, gravity, little holes in the fuselage, etc, etc.

              that we should just wait until we could build the 787

              There have been only a handful of new commercial aviation designs in the last 30 years. The Boeing 737 & 747 were designed in the 1960s, the 757 & 767 in the 1960s. Since then, nothing but incremental improvements. Same on the military side.

              Hell, even the Concorde design is 45 years old!

              Aeronautical science and engineering are bordering practical and economic limits enforced on us by physics. For example: sure "we" could build another supersonic commercial aircraft, but there's no real purpose to expending all that energy to push through the atmosphere at 1400 mph, when 550 mph is oodles cheaper, and it's still 550 miles per hour!!! My (RIP) grandparents remembered Lindbergh and crossing the country in coal-powered trains.

              And this isn't even mentioning that supersonic travel over land is prohibited because it's just not nice to shatter a jillion window panes 4 or 5 times a day!

            • I did mention earth-observation satellites and communications satellites, but solar power satellites are potentially another useful technology for actually doing useful things on Earth.

          • I would have wished those where my words. It seems only very little people have the right perspective on space travel, if I see the responses to this comment.

            I also doubt whether space colonisation is the answer. If we are still around at that time, we probably have mapped out most of the objects in the Oort cloud and/or build a deflection system for commets that might threat Earth (or possibly some other planets/moons in our solar system that we have inhabited).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by HiThere (15173)

          I sort-of agree, but you've got to do things in the right order. First step should be an almost closed life-support system. That still needs a *lot* of work. Some things can be done in parallel, but at the moment that looks like the rate limiting step. (And besides, advances in robotics and waldos might eliminate a lot of the problems. E.g., a good space-suit might not need direct connections to arms, fingers, etc. if that could be managed via wi-fi or some such.)

          To me it appears that the rate limiting

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by jpedlow (1154099)

      So, in 1.5 million years we might possibly be threatened by some comets? Something tells me that unless we do something incredibly SMART in the next 1.5 million years, a lot of humanity isn't going to be on earth. So, in short, how is this news? I don't think anyone is going to be around in 1.5 million years.

      There, Fixed that for you.

      You're assuming that humanity will last the next 500 :P

      • I think that humanity as a whole can easily last another 500 years, unless there is a sudden threat from space, I don't see humanity killing each other as much lately. Why? Because we are so connected. Back during the cold war, unless you came from Russia to America, you didn't know anyone in Russia, there was no media to connect you to Russia. It was easy to imagine Russia as the enemy. Today? We'd get both sides of the story and most people would be indecisive on whether to fight or not. Will there be war
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by manekineko2 (1052430)

      With the huge size of the 1.5 million number, it's all moot anyway, but if we haven't figured out a way out of the solar system by then, it seems like a great way to hitch a ride with the rogue star. Sure, it's much weaker than the sun, but if by then we have the technology to park a couple of space stations or asteroids that much closer to it, seems like a great way to do extra-solar colonization on the cheap.

    • Uhm. Are you living on the same planet the rest of us are?
      The sheer, seething mass of rampant stupidity is only slightly below the point where it implodes and collapses into a stupidity singularity.
      If we ARE actually alive in 1.5 million years, it'll prove two things.

      1: There IS a God.
      2: He's one warped motherfucker for keeping us around.

    • by t0p (1154575)
      Earth will have great historic, nostalgic, spiritual and commercial value. It is the homeworld - the place where the human race began - the trade in trashy souvenirs alone will be huge. We can't let all that get knocked out by some no-name comet.
    • by kalirion (728907)

      So, in 1.5 million years we might possibly be threatened by some comets? Something tells me that unless we do something incredibly stupid in the next 1.5 million years, a lot of humanity isn't going to be on earth.

      Chances are, we are going to do something incredible stupid and not survive to that point anyway.

      And also, we'd have to colonize outside the solar system to be safe here. Mars would be just as threatened by the comets as Earth.

  • the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth.

    Its in 1.5 million years. We will have lazors (Firefox spell check couldn't figure out it's lasers) to shoot the comets by then.

  • by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Friday March 12, 2010 @07:14PM (#31459152)
    In the year 1,502,000....
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Friday March 12, 2010 @07:17PM (#31459208) Homepage Journal

    From what I learned in my Texas astronomy class the comets will harmlessly splash against the crystal spheres that support the planets and sun.

  • by straponego (521991) on Friday March 12, 2010 @07:39PM (#31459530)
    We must arm NOW! That star *is* a weapon of mass destruction! We don't want the smoking gun to be a black hole! In this vial I have a sample of Hydrogen-- of the EXACT SAME MATERIAL detected in Gliese 710!
  • H. G. Wells, 1911 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dpbsmith (263124) on Friday March 12, 2010 @07:41PM (#31459556) Homepage

    H. G. Wells, "The Star" (1911) [gutenberg.org]

    It was on the first day of the New Year that the announcement was made, almost simultaneously from three observatories, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all the planets that wheel about the sun, had become very erratic....

    Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles. That is the smallest estimate of the distance to be traversed before the very nearest of the stars is attained. And, saving a few comets more unsubstantial than the thinnest flame, no matter had ever to human knowledge crossed this gulf of space, until early in the twentieth century this strange wanderer appeared....

    On the third day of the new year the newspaper readers of two hemispheres were made aware for the first time of the real importance of this unusual apparition in the heavens. "A Planetary Collision," one London paper headed the news, and proclaimed Duchaine's opinion that this strange new planet would probably collide with Neptune....

    And when next it rose over Europe everywhere were crowds of watchers on hilly slopes, on house-roofs, in open spaces, staring eastward for the rising of the great new star. It rose with a white glow in front of it, like the glare of a white fire, and those who had seen it come into existence the night before cried out at the sight of it. "It is larger," they cried. "It is brighter!" And, indeed the moon a quarter full and sinking in the west was in its apparent size beyond comparison, but scarcely in all its breadth had it as much brightness now as the little circle of the strange new star.

    "It is brighter!" cried the people clustering in the streets. But in the dim observatories the watchers held their
    breath and peered at one another. "_It is nearer_," they said. "_Nearer!_"

    [Most of the story tells of how star approaches close to Earth, creating considerable havoc...]

    But the star had passed, and men, hunger-driven and gathering courage only slowly, might creep back to their ruined cities, buried granaries, and sodden fields. Such few ships as had escaped the storms of that time came stunned and shattered and sounding their way cautiously through the new marks and shoals of once familiar ports....

    The Martian astronomers--for there are astronomers on Mars, although they are very different beings from men--were naturally profoundly interested by these things. They saw them from their own standpoint of course. "Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system into the sun," one wrote, "it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained. All the familiar continental markings and the masses of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole." Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.

  • So what are the odds of this thing being captured into a long orbit? I would imagine this will set off a shower like dropping a ball of water into a screen, but I'm also curious if this will just graze us, or if our suns gravity would be sufficient to actually capture this dwarf and create a binary system?

    1.5 Million years though. At least we have some time...

    • > So what are the odds of this thing being captured into a long orbit?

      Zero.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        Probably not *quite* zero. Pretty nearly, though. The Oort cloud isn't much of a resisting medium, but we don't know everything that's out there. There *could* be something massive enough to slow the star and dark enough that we haven't seen it. That's not the way to bet, though, even at odds of a million to one.

        And then you've got to assume that the incoming star hits this dark brown dwarf. (Nothing much lighter would work.)

        Say there's perhaps one chance in a trillion. (it's a rough estimate...and I

        • by cperciva (102828)

          And then you've got to assume that the incoming star hits this dark brown dwarf

          Or rather, hope that they don't collide. The energy released by a stellar collision that close to Earth would probably destroy not only the human race, but also all other life on Earth.

          • by HiThere (15173)

            I wasn't assuming a direct collision, but a glancing collision that was sufficient to allow them to exchange momentum. Otherwise I'd have put the odds at a lot higher than a trillion to one. (I hadn't even considered the possibility, certainly not enough to calculate the energies. In fact I still haven't, not even as an estimate. But I'm not sure you're wrong, even though this might happen, say, 3/2 lightyears away. Especially if, since we're only interested in interactions that lead to capture, it was r

  • Global warming melts ice. Quick, run your cars 24/7 and heat up the earth so we can melt those comets before they hit the ground* and do damage!
  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Friday March 12, 2010 @08:07PM (#31459840)
    Larry King. He'll still be alive.
  • I've already found a way to live that long, and deflect any danger. We all live in complete harmony in that age, with all the comforts imaginable.
    As long as you don't try to prove me wrong, thanks to entanglement it's a done deal.
    You can thank me at the bar.
  • As a non-astronomer, I wonder how this will appear from the inner sloar system, i.e. the earth? How bright will it be, will it be visible during the day, which parts of the earth will it be visible from, when will it start to be visible? These are all non-comet/end of the world questions, so i know that they are typically non-Slashdot ideas, but I'm still interested.

    Any astronomy types out there who can figure this out?

  • Maybe ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday March 12, 2010 @08:47PM (#31460192)
    ... it'll capture Pluto. Not that we'd care one way or the other.
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd o t .org> on Friday March 12, 2010 @09:01PM (#31460348)

    There is a star moving close that is very different from ours. It moves to the oort could, and therefore definitely makes it visible. There is so much to learn.

    And all you can think about is how it “threatens” earth? Have you seen the space in the solar system? Have you calculated the likeliness? And in 1.5 million years? I wouldn’t be surprised if we manage to have a congested hyperspace freeway to Gliese 710 by then! Or if we are long extinct and replaced by ravens, other apes, dolphins and octopuses. Nature wouldn’t care anyway.

    Please stop the fearmongering, if you want to be taken seriously. And enjoy the wonders of nature.

    • Please stop the fearmongering, if you want to be taken seriously. And enjoy the wonders of nature

      Aside from the domestic dangers, we haven't much else to look forward to.

      I'm reminded about the folly of tempting God.

      So ... we may as well look forward to 1.5 fairly fallow years, and the time to do something. It's a nice span of time for peace and prosperity. Serendipitous indeed.

  • The Technology Review blog claims that one star approaches within a parsec once every two million years. I understand the Wolf 424 system will also approach within a parsec (nearest approach is supposed to be somewhere around a lightyear) 9,000 years from now. It seems unlikely to me that the frequency is that low. Maybe they're counting large stars, not the red dwarfs (Wolf 424 is a binary red dwarf pair).
  • by cperciva (102828) on Friday March 12, 2010 @09:44PM (#31460664) Homepage

    Providing that humanity still exists in the year 1.5M but hasn't yet spread to other solar systems, this is a huge opportunity: Rather than needing to travel 3-4 light years in order to reach another star, we'll need to travel less than one light year -- thus making the trip both faster and much cheaper.

    Who knows, it might even be possible to slowly spread across the entire galaxy without ever venturing into interstellar space.

  • With light speed travel so unlikely it's a rare chance to visit another solar system (if we're still around then).
  • "I don't suspect we'll have completed the search for candidate objects until mid-2012, and then we may need up to a year of time to complete telescopic follow-up of those objects," said Kirkpatrick."

    Too little, too late ... If we've only started a few years before, we might have saved ourselves from 2012 :P

  • I always knew these idiots were right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIDlqR1jnKA [youtube.com] The reptile people are just hiding it from us.
  • And so will disappear the last sign than man was ever here.
  • http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap991211.html [nasa.gov]

    Astronomy picture of the day for December 11, 1999.

    The star field shown [in the image at the above link] is based on the Palomar Digitized Sky Survey and is 1/4 degree wide (about half the diameter of the full moon).

  • We're all going to die in 1.5 million years!

  • ...so, he isn't necessarily saying that it will be 1.5M years before this happens, or even in ~1.5M years, but sometime within that timeframe. We ought not deduce that we have such a long time to prepare, nor fail to account for the possibility of other intruding or impacting bodies headed our way even sooner.
  • Now, how do you change the velocity of the solar system by 200 meters/sec ? That's all we need to dodge Gliese 710, and we have a few hundred thousand years to think about it.

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