In 1.3 Million Years, the Solar System Will Briefly Contain Two Stars


It won’t be the first time the Sun has had its personal space invaded.

By Becky Ferreira | MOTHERBOARD

The Sun is used to having plenty of personal space, given that its nearest stellar neighbor, the Alpha Centauri system, is located about four light years away. While that’s not very distant in cosmic terms, it’s wide enough for our solar system to not be influenced by these alien stars.

But in about 1.3 million years, a star named Gliese 710, which is about 60 percent as massive as the Sun, is projected to interrupt the Sun’s hermitude by crashing right on through the far-flung reaches of the solar system. While astronomers have been aware of this stellar meetup for years, new observations from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, released on Thursday, have constrained the trajectory of Gliese 710’s impending visit, and charted out nearly 100 other upcoming close encounters with wandering stars.

According to the Gaia team, Gliese 710 will swoop through the Oort cloud, a vast shell of icy debris at the outer limits of the solar system, at a distance of roughly 90 light days, or 1.4 trillion miles. To put that into perspective, the star will be about 16,000 times farther from the Sun than Earth.

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