Mercury is connected to the sun

Solar system: will Mercury one day crush us?

Our innermost planetary neighbor, Mercury, is already circling the sun on a very elliptical orbit. And that could intensify even further, as not only is the sun pulling at it, but Jupiter's gravity also affects this orbit. Some astronomers even calculate that the influence of the gas planet could be sufficient to finally throw Mercury out of its orbit: It could then drift through the inner solar system in the direction of Jupiter - and on its way endanger our earth directly or indirectly because it is with it crashes or sends Venus or Mars on a crash course. This scenario would take billions of years to come, but scientists like Richard Zeebe from the University of Hawaii in Manoa are already working on this mind game and calculating how the planetary constellations could change over the eons - in Zeebe's case with a momentarily calming one Result.

The researchers had the unique opportunity to use the university's new supercomputer for six weeks without interruption for their simulations: In the future, no team of scientists will be allowed to work on a single project for that long. During this time they completed 1,600 time trials in which Mercury started from a slightly different position in its course around the sun. In no case, however, was Jupiter's gravity sufficient to force Mercury on an even more extreme orbit that brought it close to our own orbit: In the next five billion years, we should therefore not face any danger from this side. Mercury itself did not get off lightly in all simulations: One percent of all model runs showed that its orbit became even more elliptical; in three cases it collided with the sun, in seven others it collided with Venus.

"From Earth you would see quite a spectacle," said Zeebe, whose work, however, was criticized by Jacques Laskar from the Paris Observatory: It includes far fewer simulations than Laskar's work from 2009, in which there was a collision between Earth and Mercury had come. In order to be able to record such rare cosmic events at all, one has to complete significantly more model runs, according to the researcher. Zeebe disagreed with this view, however, because his group's simulations used better data: they showed Mercury's orbit more clearly when it was moving fast - which it did when it came even closer to the Sun on its elliptical orbit.