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Our Five-Trillion-Mile Close Call: the Star(s) That Skimmed the Solar System

27 Feb 2015, 14:00 UTC
Our Five-Trillion-Mile Close Call: the Star(s) That Skimmed the Solar System
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

It’s like something out of a Hollywood film or a science fiction novel: a dark star sneaks up on Earth from just outside the Solar System, discovered too late to do anything about it (and really, what could we do?) and plows through the cloud of comets that surrounds the Sun like a haze of icy gnats, sending them flying […]

Artist’s rendering of two stars, a red dwarf and a brown dwarf, that made a close pass by the Sun 70,000 years ago. (Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)
It’s like something out of a Hollywood film or a science fiction novel: a dark star sneaks up on Earth from just outside the Solar System, discovered too late to do anything about it (and really, what could we do?) and plows through the cloud of comets that surrounds the Sun like a haze of icy gnats, sending them flying everywhere… including on collision courses with Earth. Mass hysteria ensues.
Except that this isn’t just a story concept – scientists think this is actually something that happened 70,000 years ago! Minus the mass hysteria, of course… our ancestors were just beginning to settle down in the fertile lands of the Middle East ...

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