Ancient star grazed our solar system 700,000 years ago

A study shows that a red dwarf passed by our solar system 700,000 years ago.
By Joseph Scalise | Mar 23, 2018
A small star flew by our solar system some 700,000 years ago, leaving its mark on a range of distant celestial objects in a stellar event that early humans likely saw.

The basis for this discovery came about in 2015, when a group of researchers found evidence that a red dwarf known as Scholz's star once grazed our solar system and came within 1 light-year of the sun. Astronomers made that discovery by measuring both the velocity and motion of the celestial body and then using such data to track it back in time,Space.comreports.

To build on those findings, a group of scientists from the Complutense University of Madrid looked at 339 known solar system bodies that have unique V-shaped paths known as hyperbolic orbits.

The reason such orbits are important is because objects locked in those rotations could theoretically have originated from interstellar space. However, there is also a chance they were bumped onto odd tracks by gravitational interactions between the sun and its planets. By studying the motions, the team noted that many bodies were likely shifted or altered by the passing ofScholz's star.

"Using numerical simulations, we have calculated the radiants or positions in the sky from which all these hyperbolic objects seem to come," said lead author Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, a researcher atthe Complutense University of Madrid, in astatement. "In principle, one would expect those positions to be evenly distributed in the sky, particularly if these objects come from the Oort Cloud.However, what we find is very different: a statistically significant accumulation of radiants. The pronounced over-density appears projected in the direction of the constellation of Gemini, which fits the close encounter with Scholz's star."

Based on the current timeline, the fiery body would have passed at a time when both Neanderthals and early humans shared the Earth. While there is no way to know exactly what the event looked like, researchers believe the star appeared as a faint reddish light.

The new study is publishedlast month in theMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

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