Earth’s Orbit Has Been Mysteriously Altered Due To Chance Encounter According To Recent Discovery

Source: PBS

For years, we’ve been taught in school that the Earth’s orbit stays the same all year. If this cycle changes, it may be due to a large celestial body, and the results may be apocalyptic. Strangely enough, earth’s orbit has already been altered.

A recent study by Nathan A Kaib and Sean Raymond shows Earth’s orbit changed millions of years ago. This event happened due to a close encounter with another celestial body passing through our solar system.

Earth’s Temperature Increase

The study leading to this discovery came from a puzzling observation. Scientists at the Planetary Science Institute and the Laboratory of Astrophysics discovered Earth’s temperature increased a few million years ago. How hot was it?

Source: Flickr/Scott wedell

The planet is heated by 8 Celsius (14.4 Fahrenheit) between the Paleocene and Eocene. This temperature increase puzzled scientists. They wondered what could cause such a spike. Keep in mind that such temperatures are brutal.

Heating Up By eight Celsius Is Catastrophic

Earth earning up by eight Celsius is catastrophic for life. This would cause increased heat waves, storms, hurricanes, and drought. Food shortage will also be a big issue as plants struggle to grow in such an environment.

Source: Wikimedia/Flanoz

The food shortage and storms will also reduce biodiversity. Animals will struggle to adapt to climate change. This will lead to the extinction of some species, including plants and animals. It’s not an excellent picture for life.

What’s Responsible For This Temperature Change?

As experts in their fields, Nathan and Sean wondered what would cause this temperature spike. After a long while, they suggested that a chance encounter may have been the culprit. What’s a chance encounter?

Source: NASA/JPL-California Institute of Technology

A chance encounter means a celestial body approached Earth. This could be a huge asteroid or even a planet. Such cosmic objects are scary since the last one that hit Earth wiped out the dinosaurs.

This Was No Ordinary Near Encounter

Most near encounters include asteroids, meteoroids, and comets. Sometimes, even rogue planets can fly past Earth. However, the scientists noticed the passing celestial body must be big enough to change our orbit.

Source: Wikimedia/NASA/SDO (AIA)

What’s big enough to nudge Earth out of its path with the sun? Another sun! That’s right. Sean and Nathan concluded that another sun came near Earth millions of years ago and changed our orbit.

How Did They Know?

A sun passing by Earth feels like a stretch. So, how do these scientists make their conclusion? They ran a simulation. This data showed that a star passed by the solar system disrupted the earth’s motion around our sun.

Source: Wikimedia/Public domain

This simulation combined geology, statistical analysis, and modeling to present the data. It also considered our understanding of planetary formation and Earth’s history. The result is an in-depth tale of that near encounter and its effects

Calibrating The Simulation Was Tricky

The scientists first approached the research by trying to rewind the solar system’s current trajectory in the simulation. This should reveal any changes that may have caused the orbit shift and temperature spike. However, the simulation gave incorrect results when considering only the solar system.

Source: Wikimedia/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt

Once external bodies were inserted, the results changed but we’re still uncertain. According to one of the researchers: “our results show that passing stars make detailed predictions of Earth’s past orbital evolution at this time highly uncertain. Also, a broader spectrum of orbital behavior is possible than previously thought.”

Gravity From Other Stars Vs The Earth

The simulation shows that gravity from other stars interacted with our own. This is common as stars zoom past each other, minding their business. However, if they get too close, their gravity can scramble our solar system.

Source: Wikimedia/Nova Dawn Astrophotography

It’s similar to having some magnets on a table. If you slide a magnet past the bunch, their positions will change. Now, imagine them in orbit as your magnet passes. It will influence their trajectory, too.

The Star Got Super Close

The simulation also revealed how close this menacing neighbor was to our home. Surprisingly, it was 4,000 astronomical units away. For context, one astronomical unit (AU) is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers).

Source: Wikimedia/Topoignaz

This distance was close enough to have an effect on the planet’s movement around our sun. Also, the simulation revealed that flybys within 50,000 past every few million years mildly affected our orbit, too.

‘We Need To Study These Near Encounters More’

Shifting the earth’s orbit millions of years ago was problematic for the dinosaurs. Imagine having the same problems today. It would set humanity back thousands of years with a total economic collapse. That is why Naib and Raymond recommend more studies on these bodies.

Source: Wikimedia /NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt

The researchers wrote a comment in their paper. “We show that stellar encounters play an important role in our Solar System’s long-term dynamical evolution.” Apparently, despite their distance, these passers-by can wreak havoc on the earth. They may be as much priority as near-miss asteroids.

It Takes Millions Of Years For Passers-by To Have Any Effect

The researchers noted that these passers-by cross our solar system over millions of years. Therefore, It may take several years before another star influences our gravity But, they are worth observing.

Source: Wikimedia /NASA/AEI/ZIB/M. Koppitz and L. Rezzolla

Passing asteroids, planets, and stars poses a hazard to the planet. They raise the climate, cause droughts, and kill living things. What’s worse is that some of these celestial bodies are unobserved and pass Earth with surprising effects.

The Research Sheds More Light On Our Solar System’s History

The encounter between Earth and a passing star millions of years ago most likely affected Earth’s orbit and, in turn, impacted its climate. This study shows how these passing stars influenced our solar system and Earth’s history.

Source: Wikimedia/The International Astronomical Union/Martin Kornmesser

To delve deeper into Earth’s orbit and its interaction with passing stars, explore the research published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. In the meantime, what do you think? Does this discovery feel eye-opening or haunting?

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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