December 1, 2023

Good news! No collision with a rogue star in the next 29,000 years

Rest easy and take down the protective measures because our solar system is safe from a potential collision with the rogue white dwarf star WD 0810-353. Recent observations made by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have shown that initial calculations were inaccurate.

When we take a step back and consider the bigger picture, it can be quite alarming. While we strive to achieve greatness and construct a better world, it’s disheartening to think that all our efforts could be rendered futile by a massive rogue star, two-thirds the size of the Sun, that could disrupt everything in 29,000 years. It certainly makes one reconsider investing in new carpet.

The latest scare emerged in 2022 when astronomers Vadim Bobylev and Anisa Bajkova analyzed the data sent back by the Gaia space observatory, launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2023. By studying the shift in the spectrum of the white dwarf star WD 0810-353, located in the constellation of Puppis and located 36 light-years away, they predicted that the star was headed for a collision with our solar system.

While the rogue star is set to pass within 31,000 AU (2.8 trillion miles or 4.6 trillion km) of the Sun, this alone may not be cause for alarm. However, this proximity means it will traverse the Oort cloud, which houses icy celestial bodies whose positions are delicately held by the Sun’s distant gravitational pull. When a rogue star passes through the Oort cloud, it can unsettle these objects and send them hurtling into the inner solar system.

In summary, this disruption could lead to a shower of comets and asteroids in 29,000 years, similar to the event that potentially wiped out the dinosaurs. However, recent findings by a team of scientists at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have put these fears to rest. The scientists utilized the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) installed on the ESO’s VLT at the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Through new spectrographic analysis of the rogue star, the team confirmed that the initial calculations had overlooked the star’s powerful magnetic field. Such magnetic fields can distort spectrograms, causing spectral lines to spread out and shift to new wavelengths. In the case of WD 0810-353, this distortion made it appear as though it was on a collision course with our solar system. By correcting the spectrum using a polarizing filter, a more accurate calculation was made, revealing that the initial estimate was far from accurate.

“We found that the approach speed measured by the Gaia project is incorrect, and the close encounter predicted between WD0810-353 and the Sun is actually not going to happen,” says Stefano Bagnulo, an astronomer at Armagh and co-author of the study. “In fact, WD0810-353 may not even be moving towards the Sun at all.”

With these new findings, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that our solar system is safe from the potential threat posed by the rogue star WD 0810-353. So, we can put away our concerns and continue our endeavors to build a better world without the looming fear of cosmic devastation.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it