The astronomers have spotted a new star that made the closest approach to our solar system when it sailed through our system’s outer fringes.
According to the scientists, this was the closest approach of a star ever made. But they say, it occurred approximately 70,000 years ago.
A group of astronomers from Chile, South Africa and the United States said that the star is expected to have passed through a distant comet cloud, called Oort Cloud, a fly-by that witnessed it passing within just 0.8 light years of us.
If talk in the cosmic terms, this is a close shave. Proxima Centauri is so far known as our closest star and it is a 4.2 light years away from us.
The newly spotted low-mass star has been named “Scholz’s star” after its discoverer, Ralf-Dieter Scholz, an astronomer at the Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam in Germany, who detected it in 2013.
The astronomers said that it caught their attention because it offered a very slow motion display across the sky, called tangential motion, despite being fairly close to the Earth, i.e. just 20 light years away.
Lead study author Eric Mamajek, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Rochester, said, “Most stars at the closer distance show much larger tangential motion. The small tangential motion and proximity initially indicated that the star was most likely either moving towards a future close encounter with the solar system, or it had ‘recently’ come close to the solar system and was moving away.”
Mamajek said that when they carried further observations, it was found that the star was moving away almost directly from the regions of our solar system, suggesting that it have had a close flyby in the past.
In order to find out its past trajectory, the astronomers carried close observations of the current velocity of the star, which was collected by the Magellan telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the Southern African Large Telescope.
According to the researchers, the recently launched European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite can successfully map the star’s position and velocity that would further facilitate is in knowing whether it had a close encounter with our solar system in the past, or in the far future.
The findings of the report have been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.