Earth could ‘leave sun’s orbit and drift until swallowed by a black hole’

The Earth could be flung out of orbit into deep space and drift until it is finally sucked up by a black hole, say experts.

Matteo Ceriotti, an aerospace engineer and space systems engineering lecturer at the University of Glasgow toldLive Science: “It’s very unlikely” – but not impossible.

"The Earth could be moved away from its orbit through the action of a massive interstellar object, flying through interstellar space and coming into the solar system and passing close to the Earth.

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"In this close encounter, known as a 'flyby,' the Earth and the object would exchange energy and momentum, and the Earth's orbit would be disrupted.

“If the object were fast, massive and close enough, it could project the Earth into an escape orbit directed outside of the solar system."

Senior lecturer in physics and astronomy at Cardiff University, Timothy Davis, agreed saying it was possible that the Earth could get booted out of the solar system, although he had a slightly different theory about how it might come about.

Speaking to the same publication he said: "The planets, as they exist right now, are in stable orbits around the sun.

“However, if the sun were to have a close encounter with another star, then the gravitational interactions of these bodies could disturb these orbits, and potentially cause Earth to be ejected from the solar system".

He too made it clear this scenario is feasible, though highly unlikely.

"Such stellar encounters are quite rare.

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"For instance, we know that the star Gliese 710 is expected to come quite close, in astronomical terms, to the sun in around a million years' time — but even this flyby is unlikely to perturb the planets."

If were to break away from the solar system, Ceriotti believes the consequences would not be good.

"Earth would fly into interstellar space until captured or swallowed by another star or a black hole," he said but made it clear that it wouldn't matter much anyway as the things that sustain life would likely already be gone by this point.

"It's unlikely that the atmosphere would remain: Earth's global climate is very delicate due to a fine balance of radiation incoming from the sun and energy dissipated to deep space. If this was to vary, temperatures would immediately and dramatically change".


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