Science fiction classic from the days when men were men and ladies swooned (Image credit: via wikimedia.org)

At first glance Gliese 710 is not a very distinguished star. A K7 class orange dwarf a bit more than half as massive as the Sun, it currently lies about 63 light years from us in the constellation Serpens. It is moving fast though and that is why one reason why it is special. The other is that it is coming our way.

Gliese 710 will not collide with the Earth or Sun but it is likely to come fantastically close by cosmic standards. The rogue star may come as close as a light year to us, blundering through the Oort Cloud. You might expect it to be a stunning spectacle in our skies, but alas it will appear as just another first magnitude star, roughly as bright as Regulus. However it leave evidence of its passing, scattering the icy denizens of the Oort Cloud. Some of these will fall inwards towards the Sun. Observers in the inner Solar System will see perhaps thousands of comets bloom.

A fraction of these interlopers will hit planets, including our own. Thankfully we do not yet need to worry about this stellar visitation as it is expected about 1.5 million years from now. I wonder who or what will experience this moment in galactic history here on Earth.

Read more on this story here. Interesting fiction on visiting stars includes When worlds collide (1933) by Balmer and Wylie (memorably filmed by George Pal in the 1950s), Fifth Planet (1963) by Sir Fred Hoyle and The Star by HG Wells.


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