A passing star shifting Neptune’s orbit could wreck the solar system

If a star flying past our solar system moved Neptune’s orbit by just 0.1 per cent, it could eventually cause the other planets to smash into one another or get thrown out of the solar system entirely

Space 6 July 2022

Planet Neptune in the Starry Sky of Solar System in Space with image elements furnished by NASA.

The solar system could be thrown into chaos by a small change in Neptune’s position

Shutterstock/24K-Production

A neighbouring star getting too close to our solar system could drive it into pandemonium. Simulations suggest that a fly-by star would only need to nudge Neptune’s position by three times the distance between the Earth and the sun to cause the planets to go haywire.

It may seem obvious that any significant shifts to a planet’s position could have a large effect on our solar system, but the new simulations suggest that this could …

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