According to reports, astronomers have discovered that a red dwarf star and its brown dwarf companion came within one light-year of our sun.
The stellar event occurred 70,000 years ago, when the alien star system passed through the edge of the Oort Cloud which rings our solar system. The red dwarf star is called WISE J072003.20-084651.2, but is also known by the catchier name of Scholz’s star. It is currently located in the constellation of Monoceros, around 20 light-years away from Earth, writes Alan Boyle for NBC News.
Closest flyby in history
Researchers working on a study later published in Astrophysical Journal Letters say that it is the closest that another star has come to us, passing by at a distance of 5 trillion miles (8 trillion kilometers, or 52,000 astronomical units, or 0.8 light-years).
The scientists say that Scholz’s star usually doesn’t shine bright enough to be seen with the naked eye from Earth, and the same would have been true during the close encounter. However, study leader Eric Mamajek of the University of Rochester claims that our ancestors may have been able to observe a magnetically induced flare-up, which causes the star to burn thousands of times brighter than usual.
Tracking the movement
Mamajek and his team became intrigued by the star after noticing that its trajectory suggested that it was moving directly away from us, or towards us. They used the Southern African Large Telescope and the Magellan Telescopes, based in Chile, to calculate its relative motion.
“Sure enough, the radial velocity measurements were consistent with it running away from the sun’s vicinity — and we realized it must have had a close flyby in the past,” Mamajek said in a press release.
Fortunately Scholz’s star did not come any closer than one light-year, and the researchers have been able to confidently claim that a predicted future close shave will not happen either. Another group of astronomers claimed last year that a star known as HIP 85605 might pass dangerously close to our solar system between 240,000 and 470,000 years from now, but Mamajek and his colleagues have now said that the star will not pass anywhere near as close.