Chance that floating rogue planet could crash into Earth and kill us all

Scientists have calculated the chance of a rogue planet smashing into Earth and killing us all.

Rogue planets, also known as free-floating planets, are planets that travel through space and are not gravitationally bound to a star.

They can either form within a planetary system and be ejected from it, or form on their own outside a planetary system.

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It is not known exactly how many rogue planets are gallivanting through space, although there could be billions or trillions in the Milky Way alone.

Given this, there is a chance that rogue planets can crash into other objects in the universe, including Earth.

A direct collision from a mass of similar size to our planet would inevitably destroy Earth. A glancing hit could knock us out of orbit, making Earth a rogue planet itself.

Although in that second scenario Earth could stay intact, we would either be propelled away from the Sun and freeze or towards the Sun and burn.

So, what is the chance of any of these humanity-ending scenarios playing out?

"I would estimate that the likelihood of a rogue planet coming within the solar system over the next 1,000 years to be a one in a billion chance," Garrett Brown, a celestial mechanics and computational physics researcher at the University of Toronto, told Newsweek.

"Here, I define 'coming within the solar system' to mean that we could see the rogue planet in such a way that when we look at it with a telescope it would look like Neptune or Pluto.

"For a rogue planet that were to come at least this close, there would be a one in 2,000 chance that it would directly alter Earth's orbit."

Brown added that it is tricky to estimate how likely a direct collision with Earth is, but that it is "much less likely".

He estimated the chance of a rogue planet coming closer to the Earth than Mars or Venus, in the next 1,000 years, to be one in two trillion.

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