If Neptune’s orbit changes 0.1% it will destroy our solar system

Deepak Gupta July 21, 2022
Updated 2022/07/21 at 2:35 PM

A recent study brought us a possible and catastrophic reality. According to the results of the work, if a star passing through our solar system moved Neptune’s orbit by just 0.1%, this could eventually cause the other planets to collide with each other or be expelled from the solar system altogether.

Calm down, don’t worry – it won’t happen in our lifetime, according to the results of the investigation.

If a neighboring star gets too close to our solar system, it could send it into pandemonium. Simulations suggest that a flying star would only need to push Neptune's position three times the distance between Earth and the Sun to send the planets out of control.

It might seem obvious that any significant change in a planet's position could have a big effect on our solar system, but the new simulations suggest that it could even destroy the solar system.

Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada, created thousands of simulations and came up with a number that tells us how close a star can come to have tremendous influence on either a particular planet or our entire solar system.

Just as the sun's gravity can influence really distant objects like comets, and these can be very far from the Sun, they continue to orbit the Sun because of the strong gravity of the star itself. A passing star can influence objects in the solar system. Therefore, our study was to try to understand how sensitive would be the stability of the solar system to be influenced by passing stars.

Said Garett Brown, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study.

Neptune can ruin everything

In this recent study, researchers have created nearly 3,000 simulations that show what the smallest amount of influence is needed to potentially create huge changes in our own solar system. In fact, it doesn't take much!

As Brown points out, only stars were considered as stellar flybys in his simulations - stars that are 100 times larger than our Sun, which is rare. They also simulated flybys with smaller red dwarf stars, which are about 5% the size of our Sun but 100 times heavier than Jupiter.

In one of the simulations he found that if a "flying fly" passed by tomorrow and pulled Neptune out of its orbit by just 0.1%, there could be catastrophic consequences for Mercury and Venus.

We ran the simulations until Mercury collided with Venus, among other things, and we stopped. So Mercury can collide with Venus and that's it, nothing else happens.

Brown mentioned.

The specific result is that if Neptune moves by a relatively small amount, then over the lifetime of the solar system, the probability of instability would increase by 10 times. Which sounds like a lot again, but if we take the solar system as it is today, completely isolated from the rest of the universe, there's about a 1% chance that Mercury collides with Venus.

The solar system is chaotic, it is difficult to predict the future of the solar system beyond a billion years, but within about 5 billion years, there is about a 1% chance that Mercury could collide with Venus. So, if a star passes by and moves Neptune by this small amount, then instead of a 1% probability that Mercury will land on Venus, then there would be a 10% probability.

explained the investigator.

Image of Neptune in the solar system

But why Neptune?

According to research, the answer is quite simple: Neptune is the farthest away, so it has a higher chance of being influenced by a stellar flyby. Of course, the study lifts the veil on a celestial event that has a very small probability of happening. In fact, it's so small that none of us, our grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, will be alive to see it – but the chances are not zero.

It's certainly nothing to be afraid of because the time involved is so, so long. Like, dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago and that's so, so short compared to the time it would take for an event like this to happen.

concluded Brown.

Interesting was the researcher's opinion about an event that may concern us in the near future. For him, humans should be concerned about the blackout of the Sun. But again, that won't happen until five billion years from now!

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