Feeds

Mars projected to collide with Earth

Billion-year alert

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Honeybee boffin STINGS OWN WEDDING TACKLE... for SCIENCE
Not the worst place to be stung, says one man
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.