Feeds

Mars projected to collide with Earth

Billion-year alert

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Forget sending astronauts to Mars, the planet may come crashing right here to Earth if gravitational interactions substantially agitate its now-stable orbit.

A new study in the June 11 issue of Nature predicts there's a real, albeit slim possibility of a planetary smash-up inside the inner solar system, largely thanks to Mercury's distinctly lopsided orbit.

Boffins Jacques Laskar and Mickael Gastineau of the Paris Observatory say results of a new computer model show a roughly one per cent chance within the next five billion years that such a planetary apocalypse will occur.

The researchers simulated the most current data available on the interactions of solar system's eight planets (with the addition of Pluto and Earth's moon) over the course of five billion years - a point in which the Sun is expected to swell into a red giant, swallow the inner planets, and leave astronomers out of work regardless.

Out of 2,501 scenarios sequentially nudging Mercury's orbit by only .38 millimeters, 25 lead to a large enough increase in the planet's orbital eccentricity to allow collisions with Venus or the Sun.

In one simulation, Mercury smashes into Venus about 1.76 billion years from now. In three others, Mercury falls into the Sun.

In yet another, Mercury's gravitational tug yanks Mars within 800 kilometers (497 miles) of Earth 3.34 billion years from now, causing the red planet to rip apart and shower Earth with debris.

Mercury is a particular nuisance to the stability of the solar system because its orbit is a slightly elongated ellipse, leaving it more vulnerable to being swayed by gravity of the large outer planets like Jupiter.

Astronomers believe the solar system is about 4.6 billion years old - so Earth's about half way to retirement with only a few dents on her. Let's just hope Mercury has insurance. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.