Earth: A small chance to win a big trip

Adding to our knowledge that the residents of planet earth are unstable, Jacques Laskar (pictured here) and Mickael Gastineau of the Observatoire de Paris calculate that so, too, is our planet’s residency in the solar system. Thanks to an instability in the entire system, we could all win a big trip to far-off places. Details are in their monograph:

Existence of collisional trajectories of Mercury, Mars and Venus with the Earth,” , Nature 459, June 11, 2009, pp. 817-819. (Thanks to investigator Alexander Pawlak for bringing this to our attention.) The authors report:

“It has been established that, owing to the proximity of a resonance with Jupiter, Mercury’s eccentricity can be pumped to values large enough to allow collision with Venus… In a set of 2,501 orbits with initial conditions that are in agreement with our present knowledge of the parameters of the Solar System, we found, as in previous studies, that one per cent of the solutions lead to a large increase in Mercury’s eccentricity—an increase large enough to allow collisions with Venus or the Sun. More surprisingly, in one of these high-eccentricity solutions, a subsequent decrease in Mercury’s eccentricity induces a transfer of angular momentum from the giant planets that destabilizes all the terrestrial planets approx3.34 Gyr from now, with possible collisions of Mercury, Mars or Venus with the Earth.”