What if a rogue planet swept through the solar system, altering Earth’s orbit? Potentially, the death of all life on the planet, according to a new Weather Channel special.
“Forecasting the End,” a new Weather Channel series, premieres March 21, exploring the possible results of a rogue planet fly-by. Rogue planets, or planets not linked to stars, may outnumber actual stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Myths about “Planet X” or “Nibiru” hold that a stealth rogue planet is headed this way (actually, it was supposed to hit on the Mayan apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012).
In fact, the likelihood of a rogue planet swinging by is slim. Astronomers have yet to find any evidence that any of the planets in our own solar system are captured rogues. And the average space between rogue planets and other bodies in our galaxy is quite expansive, Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait has calculated. In other words, a collision isn’t likely.
The first episode of “Forecasting the End” focuses on what might happen in this very unlikely scenario. Potentially, scientists say, a planet passing by could alter the orbits of the planets in the solar system, making Earth’s orbit more elliptical.