A shift in Neptune’s orbit could cause the solar system to collapse

A shift in Neptune’s orbit could cause the solar system to collapse

Neptune

A star getting too close to our solar system could cause chaos (Picture: PA)

Researchers have found that if a star passing in front of our solar system shifts Neptune’s orbit by just 0.1%, it will cause pandemonium.

A minor change in the outer planet’s orbit could eventually cause the other planets to collide or be kicked out of the solar system altogether.

According to an article in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a nearby star getting too close to our solar system could cause such a chaotic event.

Simulations suggest that a flying star would only have to move Neptune’s position three times the distance between Earth and the sun for the planets to go haywire.

One of the possible starting points for the instability of the solar system is the smallest of the planets, Mercury. The perihelion – the closest point in a planet’s orbit around the Sun – of Mercury moves about 1.5 degrees every 1,000 years, a rate very close to that of Jupiter.

Digital illustration of the solar system.  Sun, Earth and planetary Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and the dwarf Pluto

Researchers have found that if a star passing in front of our solar system shifts Neptune’s orbit by just 0.1%, it will cause pandemonium (Photo: Getty Images)

If the two were to fall into synchronization – resonance – there is a 1% chance that Mercury would be pulled out of orbit and either ejected from the solar system or placed on a collision course with Venus, the Sun or even Earth during the next three to four billion years.

While Mercury is too close to the Sun to feel the effects of a passing star, Neptune would, and the disturbance would ripple through the solar system.

The effects of a 0.1% shift – equivalent to 4.5 million kilometers in Neptune’s semi-major axis – could spread to Earth and Mars in just 20 million years.

The team ran 2,880 simulations, 960 of which showed disturbances or disturbances too small to measure. Yet in four of them, Mercury hit Venus.

In the other 1,920 models, 26 of them ended with the planets colliding or Uranus, Neptune or Mercury being completely ejected.

But there’s no need to panic just yet as the team estimated the chance of a star getting close enough to cause this to be very slim – only around 20 chances over the next 100 billion years. .

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