Disruption of planetary oribits could lead to collision with Earth
The solar system’s clockwork motion is by no means guaranteed, for new computer simulations suggests a slight chance that a disruption of planetary orbits could lead to a collision of Earth with Mercury, Mars or Venus in future.
Technically, the system is chaotic. Could this very mild chaos lead to disaster?
The potential smash-ups, however remote, are detailed in the June 11 issue of the journal Nature. The researchers, Jacques Laskar and Mickael Gastineau of the Paris Observatory, ran computer simulations involving 2,501 scenarios with different planetary orbits.
The most surprising outcome is the destabilization of the orbit of Earth and Venus,” Laskar was quoted as saying by the New Scientist online.
Despite its diminutive size, Mercury poses the greatest risk to the solar system’s order. Results of the computer model show a roughly 1% chance that the elongation of Mercury’s orbit will increase to the point where the planet’s path around the sun crosses that of Venus.
While most of the outcomes don’t involve any crashes, about 25 led to a large disruption of Mercury’s orbit. If the increase in elongation of Mercury’s orbit results in its collision with the sun or with Venus, the simulations showed the rest of the solar system wouldn’t be affected much.
However, in some less likely scenarios, the change to Mercury’s orbit leads to a total destabilization of the inner solar system (the terrestrial planets) in about 3.3 billion years, possibly triggering collisions of Mercury, Mars or Venus with Earth, the report said.