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Nearby Star Forecast To Skirt Solar System

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the we're-doomed dept.

Space 135

PipianJ writes "A recent preprint posted on arXiv by Vadim Bobylev presents some startling new numbers about a future close pass of one of our stellar neighbors. Based on studies of the Hipparcos catalog, Bobylev suggests that the nearby orange dwarf Gliese 710 has an 86% chance of skirting the outer bounds of the Solar System and the hypothesized Oort Cloud in the next 1.5 million years. As the Oort Cloud is thought to be the source of many long-period comets, the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth. This news about Gliese 710 isn't exactly new, but it's one of the first times the probability of this near-miss has been quantified."

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135 comments

FSM SAVE US! (4, Funny)

Heytunk (1559837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31458674)

XENU SAVE US!

Re:FSM SAVE US! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459340)

Hey! Who removed the above post?

Re:FSM SAVE US! (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459446)

Elron Hubbard?

Re:FSM SAVE US! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459540)

The kid from The Jetsons?

Re:FSM SAVE US! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459626)

No dummy. The red-haired guy that played Opie Taylor and Richie Cunnigham that now directs and produces movies like Apollo 13.

He has a cult following and a lot of power.

Re:FSM SAVE US! (1)

elfprince13 (1521333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459984)

No stupid, Agent Smith's character in Lord of the Rings.

Re:FSM SAVE US! (1)

MR.Mic (937158) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461454)

No, the American astronomer who discovered red shift and has a space telescope named after him.

Re:FSM SAVE US! (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460022)

this is about imaginary energy.

so that would be enron hubbard.

Re:FSM SAVE US! (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459980)

So this is after 2012 right?

Phfft! No problem.

Re:FSM SAVE US! (1)

shar303 (944843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460298)

"Light peace and universal karma to you all. L. Ron has passed into the clouds of unknowing where the Self is Unself and the mind is as unmind and all that sort of thing. L. Ron may have melted from the earth like snow, but, one thing lives on. His money. Please send cheque to address below."
The marharishi Veririshi, The Cayman Islands

Truth is, Duke Nukem will save us, by the time this star comes anywhere near the sequel should be about ready.

In 1.5 Million Years... (3, Insightful)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 4 years ago | (#31458786)

... I'll get right on it!

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459204)

I knew that there was something fishy about those bonds that Goldman Sachs sold me . . . with a 2 million year maturity!

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459218)

You joke, but it would probably take 1.5 million years to develop a technology that is capable of diverting or destroying a star.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459914)

hmm, i don't know... destroying things is pretty easy...

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461538)

Red Matter?

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1)

arcticinfantry (1130171) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461614)

OMG!!! Who modded this Interesting? I'd think infinity Naive is the only thing that's appropriate.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459282)

There isn't a millennium to waist... well maybe we can waist just few.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459398)

It's WASTE, you goddamn illiterate moron.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459552)

It's GODDAMNED, you waist of spase.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459724)

Your both wrong. You dont capitolize every dang letter in words just for the hell of them. Beleive me, I seen alot of people make that mistake. Its like their stupid terrists or gone nuculear or something.

Regrads

GWB

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459904)

Dear Mr. Bush.

Please come back. Obama is a fucking faggot.
Yes you were a pretty massive douche, but all things considered you did it well.

Love,

--The Citizens of the US

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460030)

typical righty, pissing all over the constitutional limits on presidential terms.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31461286)

must've touched a nerve!

Dear pig-ignorant flamebaiter: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460740)

Nobody will ever accuse you of having an IQ higher than that low-life criminal dogshit-stain Bush. Or a slug, for that matter.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (1)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461042)

"A lot" is two words.

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460658)

Actually, it's hifenated you desensitized clot!

Re:In 1.5 Million Years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460284)

... I'll get right on it!

Famous last words!

Nemesis (4, Insightful)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31458856)

Would stars like this be a better theory for sending Oort Cloud material to the inner Solar system than a hypothetical unseen Nemesis [space.com] ?

Re:Nemesis (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31458980)

I think it pretty much assumed that close passes by stars disturb the Oort Cloud [google.com] .

Re:Nemesis (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459614)

Carl Sagan said it himself in Cosmos. I miss Carl [butthead astronomer] Sagan; our new token astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson isn't morose enough for my taste.

Re:Nemesis (1)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460506)

There's always Prof Brian Cox -- at least he's funny as hell.

Re:Nemesis (1)

Moldiver (1343577) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459074)

Perhaps it *is* Nemesis...

Re:Nemesis (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459206)

No, this object is well and truly above solar escape velocity. Mch more than most of our neighbours in fact.

Re:Nemesis (4, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459532)

Would stars like this be a better theory for sending Oort Cloud material to the inner Solar system than a hypothetical unseen Nemesis

Yes.

Re:Nemesis (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461104)

Nice karma per keystroke ratio!

Time to start building a Death Star (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#31458998)

Looks like we're going to need some mega firepower to deal with this threat. Let's blow the bastage up to kingdom come before it gets here. We have here a cyber recreation of Dr. Teller, whose devoted his now vast computational facilities to devising a star destroying laser beam.

Nah - Time to start breeding Dragons (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459950)

Look, if you're going to have to get rid of Thread [wikipedia.org] , you've got to use the right tools for the job...

So.... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459018)

in the next 1.5 million years. As the Oort Cloud is thought to be the source of many long-period comets, the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth

So, in 1.5 million years we might possibly be threatened by some comets? Something tells me that unless we do something incredibly stupid in the next 1.5 million years, a lot of humanity isn't going to be on earth.

So, in short, how is this news? I don't think anyone is going to be around in 1.5 million years.

Re:So.... (2, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459066)

Something tells me that unless we do something incredibly stupid in the next 1.5 million years... Never underestimate the capacity of human beings to do incredibly stupid things. But yes, we are currently in a race to see if we can establish sustainable populations off-planet before we or something else manages to wipe out all life here on earth. If we can't manage to win that race long before 1.5 million years from now, we're pretty much doomed as a species anyway.

Re:So.... (2, Informative)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459778)

But yes, we are currently in a race to see if we can establish sustainable populations off-planet before we or something else manages to wipe out all life here on earth.

Don't kid yourself. Only a very few of us are in the race. The vast majority gave up about three steps into the marathon, plopped down on the couch, and tuned into American Idol.

Frankly, I think space colonization needs to be a national priority, right up there with energy independence. I'm talking a national effort for those two issues that would make the WWII industrial and military effort seem like an elementary school field day in comparison, because I think humanity will face an extinction threat by the end of the century (biological warfare). It's only a matter of time before some terrorist or crazy religious group (or a nation comprised of such) gets hold of some bioweapon like ebola or Spanish flu, genetically tweaks it, and lets it loose; I can only hope we have somewhere to go when that happens. It just pisses me off that we were moving towards that and had made some measurable progress, only to give up and sit on our fat asses.

Nations are the wrong tools for this time scale (4, Insightful)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460190)

Over the past century, space travel's usefulness has been limited to war, boosting political egos, threatening war, communications satellites, Earth-observation satellites, and a bit of astronomy. Yes, there have been commercial spinoffs, like developing Velcro andTang(tm) powdered orange-colored juice, but the engineers and scientists who could have built us something useful, like the franistan, where busy doing militarized space programs instead.

You can't colonize space unless you can build a sustainable closed ecosystem that runs on sunlight, and we're not even close. We've built a few toy terrariums that failed, like the Biosphere, but our one significant experiment in terraforming has also been failing, making this planet look less and less like the Terra that we started with. We're not going to be able to build space colonies big enough to house a significant fraction of humanity until we've learned how to keep an already-mostly-working planet working.

Furthermore, real space colonization is an immense project - it's not just throwing a few canned monkeys into orbit that for a few billion dollars of investment per seat, it's a project about as big and economically transformative as, say, Agriculture or Cities, and unless the Great Nanotech Singularity saves our asses without burying them in Grey Goo, we're going to have to keep the planet working well for probably as long a timescale as we've spent on those experiments. It's a Really Really big project, not one of those quick and dirty experiments like the Industrial Revolution or the Nation-State. Fortunately, 1.5 million years is a respectably long time - it's 100 times as long as we've had Civilization, 30-40 times as long as we've been our current species, more along the scale of how long we've had modern Acheulean stone tools or maybe fire.

Re:Nations are the wrong tools for this time scale (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460634)

to suggest the only advances that came out of the space industry are velcro and tang, is stupid and insulting to all the amazing engineers that worked in the field. it destroys any credability your rant had.

Re:Nations are the wrong tools for this time scale (1)

tomhuxley (951364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461240)

Particularly insulting since both velcro and Tang predate the Space program (they were only popularized as a result their use by NASA, neither were invented for the Space program).

Re:Nations are the wrong tools for this time scale (4, Interesting)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460704)

I know there's a lot of work ahead of us. And I realize that "canned monkeys" aren't enough. But the big point is, real colonization has to start somewhere--ie, with lots of canned monkeys and solar-power satellites. Too many people want to sit around saying that all of this is too hard, that it isn't practical without advanced technologies that we don't currently have, and then decide "well, we can't do it right now, so why bother trying?" They conveniently forget that all of this Buck Rogers takes effort, not just bucks. Someone has to work on them; they don't just fall out of the sky ready to go. We're fooled by seeing all of these different advances in different fields (like computing), forgetting that the progress is happening because, well, somebody is doing the work. It just happens that most of that work can be applied to other fields. But things like nuclear space propulsion and vacuum-rated hardware don't have lots of other applications, and unless someone in the aerospace field works on them, unless somebody puts money towards them, they'll stagnate. We'll sit there forever wondering why we don't have all these fancy things, and yet never actually get them.

I mean, we didn't sit there after the Wright brothers flew and decide that pursuing airplanes was a worthless endeavor, that we should just wait until we could build the 787, did we? Well, that's what we're doing with space. We've taken our first baby step, then given up on trying to walk because we can't yet run a marathon. Maybe we won't make it out into space before we manage to kill ourselves off... but I, for one, would rather go down fighting. And if that does happen, if we do die off and exist no more, then everything we've ever done in the name of progress and benefiting humanity, everything every person ever did, will be for naught.

Re:Nations are the wrong tools for this time scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31461408)

singularities, paradigm shifts, don't occur unless someone funds the research, if the free market doesn't see an incentive there, then govt should do it.

Re:So.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460420)

the free market thinks money is the highest goal, not survival, so it is unwilling to invest in research that does not have a quick pay-off. So govt funds the research and exploration into space, with printed money if need be, and then the market brings the side-effects (tang, solar power, water purification devices, materials such as odor-free underwear, space tourism) to the masses.

Re:So.... (2, Interesting)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461222)

I sort-of agree, but you've got to do things in the right order. First step should be an almost closed life-support system. That still needs a *lot* of work. Some things can be done in parallel, but at the moment that looks like the rate limiting step. (And besides, advances in robotics and waldos might eliminate a lot of the problems. E.g., a good space-suit might not need direct connections to arms, fingers, etc. if that could be managed via wi-fi or some such.)

To me it appears that the rate limiting steps are:
1) almost closed life-support. (Presume that energy inputs in the form of electricity are allowed, but material inputs are strictly limited.)
2) how should solar storms be handled? 3 feet of lead+3 feet of paraffin would probably work, but that's a bit of a heavy shield.
3) mining carbonaceous chondrites for air and water replacements. (I said the life support was almost closed. That means you need supplements to actually close it.)
4) solving long-term life without gravity. (This is probably a biological problem, though a large spinning construction would also work. At least as a stop-gap.)
5) NOW one can talk about a long-term colony. That means that at this point one can start fine-tuning the sociology to create a stable or quasi-stable civilization existing in the environment of space.

So at the moment there's not much the average person can do. Supporting space-based research is good. Supporting robotics is good. Supporting space-enthusiast societies is good. But expecting any particular result in the next decade is unwise.

N.B.: The energetics of space colonies aren't properly dealt with by science fictions stories...ANY of them. Asteroids have orbits that are skew to each other (often not by a lot, but it doesn't take a lot to make transport between them unreasonably expensive). Even so, if you notice, Larry Niven presumed that the space ships used by the belters used hydrogen fusion jets. That's probably not energetic enough, but he was vague enough about how much fuel was used that "perhaps". He did presume that the ships could accelerate at several Gs for extended periods of time.

More practical is a civilization based around exchange of messages with little exchange of physical media. That doesn't require technologies like hydrogen fusion powered torches (rockets).

N.B.: The further out you get from the sun, the more skew the orbits of the satellites (planets, asteroids, etc.) are. So the more energy intensive it is to get from one to another. It would often be cheaper to get into high earth orbit than to match to something with a widely skew orbit.

P.S.: This argument doesn't really apply to trojan points. Things orbiting in trojan points should have easy transitions from one to another. But that's a small fraction of the asteroids.

Re:So.... (1, Interesting)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459080)

So, in 1.5 million years we might possibly be threatened by some comets? Something tells me that unless we do something incredibly SMART in the next 1.5 million years, a lot of humanity isn't going to be on earth. So, in short, how is this news? I don't think anyone is going to be around in 1.5 million years.

There, Fixed that for you.

You're assuming that humanity will last the next 500 :P

Re:So.... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459172)

I think that humanity as a whole can easily last another 500 years, unless there is a sudden threat from space, I don't see humanity killing each other as much lately. Why? Because we are so connected. Back during the cold war, unless you came from Russia to America, you didn't know anyone in Russia, there was no media to connect you to Russia. It was easy to imagine Russia as the enemy. Today? We'd get both sides of the story and most people would be indecisive on whether to fight or not. Will there be wars? Of course. Will weapons of mass-scale destruction be used? Probably. Will humanity as a whole die out? I don't think so. We've come a long way from the cold war. And even the most alarmist predictions of "global warming" still leaves a very large habitable chunk of land for humans.

Re:So.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459834)

Increasing population, dwindling resources (oil, water, food), ethnic rivalry (Europe and America, which are experiencing rapid demographic shifts) = recipe for conflict.

People can be goaded to fight; the same plutocratic interests that ran the show in 2003 to goad is into Iraq can drum up support for something else again if they choose. People are sheep; they keep us in a perpetual state of fear.

Re:So.... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459968)

But none of those are cataclysmic. Yes, it may lead to increased violence, but violence has always been a part of humanity. And violence doesn't mean that humanity will be destroyed. Oil will be phased out when it is really dwindling, we have a -lot- of oil, not limitless but a pretty large amount. Water will increase with newer advances in technology as will food. If we really start to run out of food, we can easily create greenhouses in uninhabited parts of the world that aren't very arable (Wyoming, the Dakotas, etc). Ethnic problems won't lead to massive-scale wars because they are all intermingled. There aren't any towns in the US that would be targets for large-scale ethnic warfare killing off large amounts of people like the World Wars or a hypothetical nuclear war.

Re:So.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459964)

Familiarity breeds contempt. Really, I'm more pessimistic about humanities survival now than I was during the cold war. Back then it was mainly the US and USSR staring down each other, neither really wanting war. Now we have nut jobs all over the place working on WMD projects. It's really only a matter of time.

Re:So.... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459996)

Even then, its pretty easy to launch a strike on them. Its hard to reform a country (such as Iraq, Vietnam, etc) but its a lot easier to win wars militarily. A coordinated bombing effort and strikes on Pyongyang would collapse the North Korean government, as would assassinations on their "dear leader" because of the personality cult. Same thing with strikes on key cities in Iran. China is very sane and knows that war with any nation isn't going to bring them any benefits and may cause their large population to revolt. If Iran/North Korea tries to do anything, they will be easy to stop any real threat to the US and western Europe. Now if you can reform the country is a different story. Similar to how we easily won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but its hard to reform the country.

Re:So.... (2, Interesting)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460676)

With the huge size of the 1.5 million number, it's all moot anyway, but if we haven't figured out a way out of the solar system by then, it seems like a great way to hitch a ride with the rogue star. Sure, it's much weaker than the sun, but if by then we have the technology to park a couple of space stations or asteroids that much closer to it, seems like a great way to do extra-solar colonization on the cheap.

OH NOES! (1)

Eggbloke (1698408) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459024)

the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth.

Its in 1.5 million years. We will have lazors (Firefox spell check couldn't figure out it's lasers) to shoot the comets by then.

Re:OH NOES! (2, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459214)

That's what you get for using the 4chan dictionary plugin.

Re:OH NOES! (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460154)

Its in 1.5 million years. We will have lazors

Only because the sharks will be running the planet by then.

Spooky Chant (2, Funny)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459152)

In the year 1,502,000....

Re:Spooky Chant (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459428)

If man is, still allliivveee

Re:Spooky Chant (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459490)

If woman can survive

Re:Spooky Chant (3, Funny)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459780)

In the year 1,502,000....

*The year 1,502,010

Re:Spooky Chant (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460376)

But what day?

Re:Spooky Chant (1)

nfojunky (1766302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460816)

But what day?

I'll bet it's a Tuesday. Nothing good ever happens on a Tuesday.

Re:Spooky Chant (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461006)

I have an all-day appointment that Tuesday. Can we make it Wednesday instead?

Re:Spooky Chant (3, Funny)

stwrtpj (518864) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459932)

In the year 1,502,000....

War was beginning

Can't resist... (1)

GuardianBob420 (309353) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460698)

In the year 1,502,000....

War was beginning

What happen?

Re:Can't resist... (2, Funny)

awshidahak (1282256) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461656)

Somebody set us up the star.

Re:Spooky Chant (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461394)

Nice Conan O'Brien reference.

Don't worry . . . (5, Funny)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459208)

From what I learned in my Texas astronomy class the comets will harmlessly splash against the crystal spheres that support the planets and sun.

Re:Don't worry . . . (5, Funny)

thechao (466986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459802)

I spent years in Texas schools, and we were always told it was a giant brass armature. When did God put in the bling?

Re:Don't worry . . . (2, Insightful)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460446)

Wasn't that what the Reformation was about? ;^)

Re:Don't worry . . . (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460650)

You were taught that the entire physical universe just created itself out of thin air one split second for NO REASON WHATSOEVER.

At the same time you were taught that it is 100% impossible for the physical universe to create itself out of thin air.

Now, you are so pathetic and confused, you have to post nonsense on Slashdot so you and the other guys living in their mom's basement can feel uber and intelligent.

Grats on all your success. Man I hope I am as smart and uber as you one day!

You are a fucking idiot. I am surprised you can type and breathe at the same time.

Nibiru/Marduk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459280)

They are slightly off... its Nibiru/Marduk... or heraps this near miss is what sends Planet X hurtiling our way. "Sometime in the next 1.5 million years" woul then translate to 2.5 years from now, and the near miss is on 12.21.2012. Time to get insured [slashdot.org] !

We don't have time to waste, people (4, Funny)

straponego (521991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459530)

We must arm NOW! That star *is* a weapon of mass destruction! We don't want the smoking gun to be a black hole! In this vial I have a sample of Hydrogen-- of the EXACT SAME MATERIAL detected in Gliese 710!

H. G. Wells, 1911 (4, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459556)

H. G. Wells, "The Star" (1911) [gutenberg.org]

It was on the first day of the New Year that the announcement was made, almost simultaneously from three observatories, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all the planets that wheel about the sun, had become very erratic....

Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles. That is the smallest estimate of the distance to be traversed before the very nearest of the stars is attained. And, saving a few comets more unsubstantial than the thinnest flame, no matter had ever to human knowledge crossed this gulf of space, until early in the twentieth century this strange wanderer appeared....

On the third day of the new year the newspaper readers of two hemispheres were made aware for the first time of the real importance of this unusual apparition in the heavens. "A Planetary Collision," one London paper headed the news, and proclaimed Duchaine's opinion that this strange new planet would probably collide with Neptune....

And when next it rose over Europe everywhere were crowds of watchers on hilly slopes, on house-roofs, in open spaces, staring eastward for the rising of the great new star. It rose with a white glow in front of it, like the glare of a white fire, and those who had seen it come into existence the night before cried out at the sight of it. "It is larger," they cried. "It is brighter!" And, indeed the moon a quarter full and sinking in the west was in its apparent size beyond comparison, but scarcely in all its breadth had it as much brightness now as the little circle of the strange new star.

"It is brighter!" cried the people clustering in the streets. But in the dim observatories the watchers held their
breath and peered at one another. "_It is nearer_," they said. "_Nearer!_"

[Most of the story tells of how star approaches close to Earth, creating considerable havoc...]

But the star had passed, and men, hunger-driven and gathering courage only slowly, might creep back to their ruined cities, buried granaries, and sodden fields. Such few ships as had escaped the storms of that time came stunned and shattered and sounding their way cautiously through the new marks and shoals of once familiar ports....

The Martian astronomers--for there are astronomers on Mars, although they are very different beings from men--were naturally profoundly interested by these things. They saw them from their own standpoint of course. "Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system into the sun," one wrote, "it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained. All the familiar continental markings and the masses of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole." Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.

Re:H. G. Wells, 1911 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31461202)

citation please.

... and no cheap references to Pinoqachole this time! ...

 

Nibiru / Marduk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459624)

Bah! This "near miss" was predicted thousands of years ago by the Sumarians and it winds up responsible hurling a planet toward us that we can't see right now. Planet's Name? Nirbiru/Marduk/Planet X, or whatever they're calling it these days.

Of course, that means that "sometime in the next 1.5 million years" should probably read "in the next 2 years" so that the Planet X has sufficient time to reach us by December 21st, 2012. Time to Get Insured [2012ins.com] !

Binary System? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459720)

So what are the odds of this thing being captured into a long orbit? I would imagine this will set off a shower like dropping a ball of water into a screen, but I'm also curious if this will just graze us, or if our suns gravity would be sufficient to actually capture this dwarf and create a binary system?

1.5 Million years though. At least we have some time...

Re:Binary System? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460644)

> So what are the odds of this thing being captured into a long orbit?

Zero.

Re:Binary System? (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461296)

Probably not *quite* zero. Pretty nearly, though. The Oort cloud isn't much of a resisting medium, but we don't know everything that's out there. There *could* be something massive enough to slow the star and dark enough that we haven't seen it. That's not the way to bet, though, even at odds of a million to one.

And then you've got to assume that the incoming star hits this dark brown dwarf. (Nothing much lighter would work.)

Say there's perhaps one chance in a trillion. (it's a rough estimate...and I wouldn't want to justify it, but it's my guess of a ballpark figure.)

Re:Binary System? (1)

cperciva (102828) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461598)

And then you've got to assume that the incoming star hits this dark brown dwarf

Or rather, hope that they don't collide. The energy released by a stellar collision that close to Earth would probably destroy not only the human race, but also all other life on Earth.

Global warming save us (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459750)

Global warming melts ice. Quick, run your cars 24/7 and heat up the earth so we can melt those comets before they hit the ground* and do damage!

I know who will cover it! (3, Funny)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459840)

Larry King. He'll still be alive.

Re:I know who will cover it! (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461462)

My lack of mod points right now pains me.

I am your hero, thanks to entanglement! (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#31459872)

I've already found a way to live that long, and deflect any danger. We all live in complete harmony in that age, with all the comforts imaginable.
As long as you don't try to prove me wrong, thanks to entanglement it's a done deal.
You can thank me at the bar.

Oops a couple of decimals off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31459896)

False alarm. We were a couple of decimal places off. It won't reach the Oort Cloud for another 1.5 years and the comets shouldn't reach the inner solar system until some time in December of 2012 so there's nothing to worry about.

mod do3N (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460046)

How will this look from the Earth? (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460066)

As a non-astronomer, I wonder how this will appear from the inner sloar system, i.e. the earth? How bright will it be, will it be visible during the day, which parts of the earth will it be visible from, when will it start to be visible? These are all non-comet/end of the world questions, so i know that they are typically non-Slashdot ideas, but I'm still interested.

Any astronomy types out there who can figure this out?

Re:How will this look from the Earth? (3, Informative)

gront (594175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460136)

At closest approach it will be a first-magnitude star about as bright as Antares. from the wikipedia article link in the post. more about antares: http://www.universetoday.com/guide-to-space/stars/antares-star/ [universetoday.com]

Maybe ... (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460192)

... it'll capture Pluto. Not that we'd care one way or the other.

Re:Maybe ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31460812)

That's true. After all, we have plenty of round, not quite planet sized bodies here on earth. Who'd miss just one more named, not quite planet sized, rotund body?

Fearmongering again. (4, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460348)

There is a star moving close that is very different from ours. It moves to the oort could, and therefore definitely makes it visible. There is so much to learn.

And all you can think about is how it “threatens” earth? Have you seen the space in the solar system? Have you calculated the likeliness? And in 1.5 million years? I wouldn’t be surprised if we manage to have a congested hyperspace freeway to Gliese 710 by then! Or if we are long extinct and replaced by ravens, other apes, dolphins and octopuses. Nature wouldn’t care anyway.

Please stop the fearmongering, if you want to be taken seriously. And enjoy the wonders of nature.

Re:Fearmongering again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31461298)

I for one welcome our new raven-ape-dolphin-octopus overlords from Gliese 710.

frequency seems a bit off. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460626)

The Technology Review blog claims that one star approaches within a parsec once every two million years. I understand the Wolf 424 system will also approach within a parsec (nearest approach is supposed to be somewhere around a lightyear) 9,000 years from now. It seems unlikely to me that the frequency is that low. Maybe they're counting large stars, not the red dwarfs (Wolf 424 is a binary red dwarf pair).

This is an opportunity, not a threat! (2, Interesting)

cperciva (102828) | more than 4 years ago | (#31460664)

Providing that humanity still exists in the year 1.5M but hasn't yet spread to other solar systems, this is a huge opportunity: Rather than needing to travel 3-4 light years in order to reach another star, we'll need to travel less than one light year -- thus making the trip both faster and much cheaper.

Who knows, it might even be possible to slowly spread across the entire galaxy without ever venturing into interstellar space.

What an opportunity (1)

greenskyx (609089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461018)

With light speed travel so unlikely it's a rare chance to visit another solar system (if we're still around then).

Too little, too late .... (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461266)

"I don't suspect we'll have completed the search for candidate objects until mid-2012, and then we may need up to a year of time to complete telescopic follow-up of those objects," said Kirkpatrick."

Too little, too late ... If we've only started a few years before, we might have saved ourselves from 2012 :P

Finally, Planet X! (2, Funny)

heidaro (1392977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461354)

I always knew these idiots were right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIDlqR1jnKA [youtube.com] The reptile people are just hiding it from us.

Will finally kill the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar! (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461474)

And so will disappear the last sign than man was ever here.

Astronomy picture of the day of Gliese 710 (1)

gront (594175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31461558)

http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap991211.html [nasa.gov]

Astronomy picture of the day for December 11, 1999.

The star field shown [in the image at the above link] is based on the Palomar Digitized Sky Survey and is 1/4 degree wide (about half the diameter of the full moon).

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