Star on collision course

There is a high probability our solar system will feel the effect of a close encounter from a nearby star, according to a new study.

The star, known as Gliese 710, could disrupt planetary orbits and send a shower of comets and asteroids towards the inner planets when it passes in 1.5 million years time.

Dr Vadim Bobylev of the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St Petersburg is the author of the study, which appears on the prepress website arXiv and has been submitted to the journal Astronomy Letters.

He estimates that the likelihood of an impact between Gliese 710 and the outer edge of our solar system to be as high as 86%.

"That's about as close to certainty as this kind of data can get."

Bobylev bases his calculations on data collected by the European Space Agency's Hipparcos spacecraft.

Measurements made by the spacecraft were used to create the Hipparcos catalogue, which contains detailed position and velocity measurements of 100,000 stars in our neighbourhood.


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