Passing stars can perturb the Oort Cloud, triggering comet showers and potentially extinction events on Earth. We combine velocity measurements for the recently discovered, nearby, low-mass binary system WISE J072003.20-084651.2 (“Scholz’s star”) to calculate its past trajectory. Integrating the Galactic orbits of this ~0.15 M⊙ binary system and the Sun, we find that the binary passed within only 52+23−14 kAU (0.25+0.11−0.07 pc) of the Sun 70+15−10 kya (1σuncertainties), i.e., within the outer Oort Cloud. This is the closest known encounter of a star to our solar system with a well-constrained distance and velocity. Previous work suggests that flybys within 0.25 pc occur infrequently (~0.1 Myr−1). We show that given the low mass and high velocity of the binary system, the encounter was dynamically weak. Using the best available astrometry, our simulations suggest that the probability that the star penetrated the outer Oort Cloud is ~98%, but the probability of penetrating the dynamically active inner Oort Cloud (<20 kAU) is ~10−4. While the flyby of this system likely caused negligible impact on the flux of long-period comets, the recent discovery of this binary highlights that dynamically important Oort Cloud perturbers may be lurking among nearby stars.
Transit visibility zones of the Solar system planets
R. Wells K. Poppenhaeger C. A. Watson R. Heller
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 473, Issue 1, 1 January 2018, Pages 345–354, https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stx2077
Published: 14 August 2017 Article history
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The detection of thousands of extrasolar planets by the transit method naturally raises the question of whether potential extrasolar observers could detect the transits of the Solar system planets. We present a comprehensive analysis of the regions in the sky from where transit events of the Solar system planets can be detected. We specify how many different Solar system planets can be observed from any given point in the sky, and find the maximum number to be three. We report the probabilities of a randomly positioned external observer to be able to observe single and multiple Solar system planet transits; specifically, we find a probability of 2.518 per cent to be able to observe at least one transiting planet, 0.229 per cent for at least two transiting planets, and 0.027 per cent for three transiting planets. We identify 68 known exoplanets that have a favourable geometric perspective to allow transit detections in the Solar system and we show how the ongoing K2 mission will extend this list. We use occurrence rates of exoplanets to estimate that there are 3.2 ± 1.2 and
temperate Earth-sized planets orbiting GK and M dwarf stars brighter than V = 13 and 16, respectively, that are located in the Earth’s transit zone.