According to a new research, our prehistoric ancestors witnessed a unique astronomic event: a star passing by the Solar System.
Findings showed that 70,000 years ago, a star passed through the Solar System. No other star (except for our own Sun) came this close to Earth.
The distance between the passing star, dubbed “Scholz’s star” and our home system was 0.8 light years (or 5 trillion miles) away. By comparison, Proxima Centauri is 5 times further, so 4.2 light years away.
Scholz’s star is one of the two components of a binary star system. The system is made out of a red dwarf star with a lower mass (8% of our Sun’s mass) and a brown dwarf with a mass that represents 6% of our star’s mass).
Scholz’s star was probably a 10th magnitude star by the time it was passing Solar System. These types of stars are about 50 times fainter than the intensity necessary to be seen with the naked eye. However, they are magnetically active meaning that Scholz’s star could have “flared”, becoming thousands of times brighter.
So if one would consider the distance and the flare, it is possible that from Earth, our ancestors could have seen this space event unraveling before their eyes.
The team of scientists who conducted this study believes the red dwarf passed through the Oort Cloud which is the Solar System’s distant cloud, made out of trillions of comets, some having the width of a mile.
This discovery was made after they analyzed the red dwarf’s velocity and trajectory. Lead author Eric Mamajek from the University of Rochester, together with his collaborators, came to the conclusion that Scholz’s star was showing a bizarre moving pattern. Even though it was quite close (20 light years away) it showed little or no signs of motion across the sky.
By attaching spectrographs to large telescopes and with the help of world and computer modeling, the team discovered that Scholz’s star was actually getting farther away from the Solar System.
The team is now waiting for the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite to be launched in order to further determine the distances and velocities of other stars to calculate whether they are approaching our Solar System or drawing away from it.
Image Source: Universe Today