Don’t panic! The headline may have got you nervy, but there is one crucial variable we’ve not accounted for… Time.
Recent research has found that a fleet of aptly named ‘death stars’ are headed towards our solar system that will leave a path of destruction in their wake. Up to 24 of these celestial giants will cut their way across space, coming within 3.26 light years of our Solar System. A further 600 could shoot past at a distance of 16.3 light years, all of which carrying with them the possibility to end life on Earth! And this is down to something called the ‘Oort cloud’.
The Oort cloud is an enormous sphere of rubble and space debris that surrounds our sun at the very extremities of our solar system. This debris, although normally harmless to ourselves as it continues in its regular orbit, could pose a serious threat if we suddenly found these huge rocks hurtling towards our planet.
Well, that is exactly the issue that these death stars create. Research from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has used data collected by the ESA space observatory satellite, Gaia, to update calculations of how many wandering stars are likely to stumble into this celestial barrier. Once near enough to the barrier, the gravitational fields of the stars will affect the orbiting rubble, sending objects flying in this and that direction. And it is highly likely that one of the directions will intersect with our little old planet.
Well, no. There is no need for world-wide panic just yet. The earliest closest encounter is still hundreds of thousands of years away… Phew! And it will take a number of more years after this initial contact between death star and Oort cloud before the falling celestial debris reaches our planet. Nevertheless, it is an interesting future concept to think about. Mega-stars throwing debris and objects hurtling towards our planet. Its stories like this that really take the shine off the appeal of living forever!