The first humans saw a rogue star pass by our solar system


Nowadays, we only really see stars in two contexts: our Sun, which is extremely near and holds us in its gravitational grip, and distant stars which to the naked eye appear only as flashing lights in the sky. night sky. New research suggests that some of the earliest humans witnessed something different, and it would have been both incredibly confusing and potentially terrifying: a free-floating star hovering over our solar system in an incredibly close distance.

A new article published in Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society explains how the gravitational pull of a star overflown some 70,000 years ago slightly altered the orbits of hundreds of objects in our solar system. These objects, which demonstrate hyperbolic orbits, are pulled by an incredibly large body that astronomers have now determined to be a rogue star. The star was so close that the first humans would have seen it crisscrossing the sky, and who knows what their reactions may have been.

The star, called Scholz’s star, would have passed within one light-year of our solar system. It might seem like a safe distance, but it would have been close enough to alter the orbits of some of the smaller bodies orbiting our Sun. By mapping the orbits of nearly 340 of these objects, the scientists discovered that they were all pulled by the same large body, which was Scholz’s Star.

Scholz’s star, named after the astronomer who first detected it, is currently around 20 light-years from Earth, but this was not always the case. At just 9% of the Sun’s mass, scientists don’t believe the star’s flyby significantly altered the history of the solar system or Earth, but its passage would have been an incredible sight to ancient humans. At that time, in Earth’s past, both primitive humans and Neanderthals roamed the earth, and seeing the red dwarf star pass by must have been a rather confusing event.

The faint star’s reddish glow would have been easily noticeable in the night sky, although nowhere near as bright as the daytime sun. Still, it would have been quite neat to see.


Arline J. Mercier