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MILLIONS of comets may one day rain down on our Earth, according to a new study.
In around one million years’ time, a roaming star may cause tens of millions of comets to hurtle toward our inner solar system.
Here’s what we know
Currently, the closest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri, located about 4.25 light-years away.
But in around 1.29 million years, a star called Gliese 710 will be our planet’s closest stellar neighbor.
Gliese 710 is a small star currently located about 62 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens Cauda.
However, this star is headed straight toward our Solar System – and will come within a mere 0.06 light-years from Earth.
What does that mean for Earth?
Gliese 710 won’t directly harm Earth, or any life on it, from that distance.
But the star’s pass will affect the objects in space because of its strong gravitational pull.
Basically, as Gliese 710 passes through the Oort Cloud it will disrupt the trajectories of countless comets.
While some of them will shoot out into deep space, many others will head for our inner solar system.
What will the damage look like?
“For the same mass, comets would result in ten times the damage to Earth compared with an asteroid,” Professor Brad Gibson, director of the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Hull, told Newsweek.
“The early formation phases of the planets saw such cometary impacts occur more regularly.”
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system will protect Earth from many of the comets, but not all of them.
“The sheer numbers are such that if anything astrophysical has the potential to utterly destroy our biosphere, it will be one of these millions of comets which will be coming our way in only one million years’ time,” Gibson said.
What is a comet?
Comets are “cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust”, according to NASA.
They’re made of leftovers from the formation of the solar system.
When a comet approaches the Sun, it forms a “tail” made of gas and dust particles that face away from the large star.