AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 15. The Solar System
Display, Monday, May 31, 1999, 9:20am-6:30pm, Southeast Exhibit Hall

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[15.11] The Frozen Earth

F. C. Adams (U. Michigan), G. P. Laughlin (U. C. Berkeley)

Planetary systems that encounter passing stars can experience severe orbital disruption, and the efficiency of this process is greatly enhanced when the impinging systems are binary. We examine the ramifications of this scattering process for the long term prospects of our own solar system. We estimate the odds that Earth will find its orbit seriously disrupted prior to the emergence of a runaway greenhouse effect driven by the increasing luminosity of the Sun. We then examine the consequences of Earth being thrown into deep space. Although the surface biosphere would rapidly shut down under conditions of zero isolation, the Earth's radioactive heat appears capable of maintaining life in hydrothermal vent communities for some time to come. We also examine indirect processes in which the outer planets are disrupted by scattering events; with new orbital parameters -- especially high eccentricities -- the outer planets can force severe orbital changes upon the Earth.

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