Currently, Proxima Centauri is considered the closest star to Earth apart from the Sun. It is about 4.25 light-years away. But we live in a dynamic galaxy that is constantly changing, and so Earth could have a new stellar neighbor that will be much closer to home in about a million years.
For about 20 years, scientists have known about a tiny star called Gliese 710 in the Serpus Cauda constellation, located 62 light-years from Earth. A 2018 study states that Gliese 710 is moving directly toward our solar system and is projected to be within 0.06 light-years of Earth in about 1.29 million years. Seen cosmically, this distance is apparently only a hair’s breadth.
Fortunately, at this distance, the Star Gliese 710 will not pose a threat to life on Earth at this time. However, at such a short distance, the Star Pass could still wreak havoc.
When Gliese 710 passes the Oort Cloud in 0.06 light-years, it will disrupt millions of comets and eject them into space. Many of them will be aimed at the inner solar system. This could spell doom for Earth as these comet showers would put asteroids to shame.
According to Professor Brad Gibson, comets would cause much more damage on Earth compared to asteroids of the same mass. Gibson is Director of the EA Milne Center for Astrophysics at the University of Hull. He found that such cometary impacts occurred more frequently in the early phases of planetary formation. The reason for the event that wiped out most species on Earth 65 million years ago has long been debated, whether it was a comet or an asteroid that made it happen. A consensus was later reached that it was an asteroid, but there are still concerns about Earth’s future.
A sun-like star entering the solar system and slowly migrating through the Oort cloud of comets is a rare event, occurring only once in a million years. This event will disrupt more than ten million comets expected to rain down on the inner solar system.
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