Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Universe is Awesome Sometimes

Saw this snippet in one of my newsfeeds today.  Not too long ago (in human terms), astronomers discovered a star relatively close in our stellar neighborhood.  When plotting its trajectory, they discovered that not too long ago (in geologic terms), the star (actually a binary pair) zipped past our sun and through our outer Oort cloud.
The star's trajectory suggests that 70,000 years ago it passed roughly 52,000 astronomical units away (or about 0.8 light years, which equals 8 trillion kilometers, or 5 trillion miles). This is astronomically close; our closest neighbor star Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years distant. In fact, the astronomers explain in the paper that they are 98% certain that it went through what is known as the "outer Oort Cloud" - a region at the edge of the solar system filled with trillions of comets a mile or more across that are thought to give rise to long-term comets orbiting the Sun after their orbits are perturbed.
The universe is awesome sometimes.

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