A group of astronomers from the US, Europe, Chile, and South Africa have together pinpointed a near miss between our Solar System and a dim red-dwarf, known as “Scholz’s star”. In the ‘close’ encounter that took place nearly 70,000 years ago, the aforementioned star came as close as 0.8 light years – or five trillion miles – from the Sun.
Considering the vastness of space, this was as close as it could have got! This (relatively small) star, nicknamed the “Scholz’s star,” entered and exited our extended system through the distant cloud of comets known as the Oort Cloud.
The star is so named after astronomer Ralf-Dieter Scholz, from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, who discovered it in 2013. It has now been mentioned by the team of astronomers in a research paper titled, “The Closest Known Flyby of a Star to the Solar System” and published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Eric Mamajek from the University of Rochester and the group closely studied the velocity and the path of the dim star.
“The small tangential motion and proximity initially indicated that the star was most likely either moving towards a future close encounter with the solar system, or it had ‘recently’ come close to the solar system and was moving away,” he said in a statement.
“Sure enough, the radial velocity measurements were consistent with it running away from the Sun’s vicinity — and we realized it must have had a close flyby in the past.”
The team of scientists which thus concluded have based their findings on computer simulations which showed a 98% probability of the star passing through the outer Oort Cloud. One simulation brought the star within the inner Oort Cloud, which could have the effect of triggering comet showers.
The only other star to come closer to our very own planet than the Scholz’s star is the sun. Scholz’s star and the sun are now 20 light years apart, according to astronomers at the University of Rochester.