If Neptune’s orbit moves 0.1%, it could destabilize the solar system

A passing star, or a stellar flyby, with the potential to pull Neptune out of orbit by just 0.1%, could spell catastrophe for the entire solar system. But don’t worry – it won’t happen in our lifetime, according to a recent research.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have created simulations that observed how close a passing star would have to be to change a planet in our solar system’s orbit, triggering a chain reaction of changes, along with the probability of that happening.

“So just as the Sun’s gravity can affect really distant objects like comets, so comets can be very far from the Sun, but they still revolve around the Sun because of the Sun’s strong gravity. A passing star can affect objects within the solar system. So our study was aimed at trying to understand how sensitive the stability of the solar system would be to being affected by passing stars,” said Garett Brown, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study. .

Neptune can ruin everything

In this recent study, researchers ran nearly 3,000 simulations showing what is the least amount of influence needed to trigger potentially massive changes in our own solar system. It turns out that it doesn’t take much.

Brown said in this particular study that only stars in their simulations were considered as star flights — stars 100 times larger than our sun, which are rare. They also simulated flybys with smaller red dwarf stars that are about 5% the size of our Sun, but 100 times more massive than Jupiter’s.

One of the simulations found that if a flyby happens tomorrow and Neptune is pulled out of orbit by just 0.1%, it could have catastrophic consequences for Mercury and Venus.

“We ran the simulations until Mercury crashed into Venus, or something else happened, and then we stopped it. So Mercury can collide with Venus and that’s it, nothing else happens,” Brown said.

If Neptune is pulled out of orbit even just 0.1 percent, it could have devastating consequences for our solar system. NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The result is specifically that if you moved Neptune by this relatively small amount, you would have a 10 times greater chance of instability over the lifetime of the solar system. That again sounds like a lot, but if you take the solar system as it is now, completely isolated from the rest of the universe, there is about a 1% chance that Mercury will collide with Venus.The solar system is chaotic, it is difficult to predict the future of the solar system after a billion years, but within about 5 billion years it will be there is a 1% chance that Mercury will collide with Venus, so if a star passes by and Neptune moves by this small amount, then instead of a 1% chance that Mercury will collide with Venus, there is now a 10 chance %,” Brown continued.

Brown suggested that Mercury and Venus might merge and form an entirely new planet. There was also a case where the Earth crashed on Mars. The possibilities were seemingly endless.

“We ran nearly 3,000 simulations and in one of those cases we found that the change in Neptune’s orbit caused Earth to collide with Mars instead, so it’s possible something like this could happen where it directly affects Earth.” “It is much rarer than Mercury collides with Venus. If this effect were to occur, it would be very hard to tell at first and very hard to do anything about it,” Brown added.

But why Neptune? The answer is pretty simple: Neptune is the furthest away and therefore more likely to be affected by a stellar flyby, Brown said.

There is currently a one percent chance that Mercury will collide with Venus sometime in the next 5 billion years. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Ce

It will take millions of years, maybe billions

The chance of a celestial event as great as this is very small, so small that none of us or your grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be alive to see it, but the chance is not zero.

“So even if we saw that this was the result of an event, and we could describe in detail what was going to happen, the process itself would take millions of years before the crash even happened. And once the crash happened.” So if we were an advanced spacefaring species or future species were an advanced spacefaring species and have a lot of potential for interplanetary travel, they could try to alter Mercury’s orbit to prevent that from happening. Mercury is the lightest it might be the easiest to move, but it also moves very fast so it would be quite an undertaking, but if one of those species were that space-traveling to try something like that, maybe they’d better go somewhere else can go,” Brown said.

“It’s certainly not something to be afraid of, because the time involved is so, so long. That’s how the dinosaurs died 65 million years ago and that’s so, so short compared to the time it would take for an event like this to happen,” Brown added.

Brown said if there’s anything to worry about in the near future, people should worry about the sun burning out, but again, that won’t happen for billions of years — five billion years according to scientists.

“The motivation behind this study itself was just to try and understand how sensitive the solar system is to change. And it’s actually quite robust,” Brown said. “So if you imagine, like in a roller coaster, generally a roller coaster can go down a hill and then come up and go down and go up and down. But if you imagine the solar system is like a roller coaster car at the bottom of the hill , then you could push the roller coaster back and forth in this little hill and it just always goes back to the bottom because it’s stable and robust and the kind of change you should get to push it over the hill, to make it pushing towards something catastrophic is the kind of change where you might have to move Neptune by 0.1%.


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