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BRINGING THE THRILL OF COOKIES TO YOUR FRONT DOOR

WEEKLY WHINE

Not yet Nunavut

It has recently been discovered that a small red dwarf star with a brown dwarf companion passed by our solar system not too long ago. They are estimated to have passed within .25 parsec of the Sun some 70,000 years ago.

Naturally, this is a hugely important discovery. A star passing within the outer Oort cloud during human history? Who wouldn’t be excited?

We here at GoobNet were excited, of course, because we are humans. But we were also conflicted, because we are GoobNet. We have already committed to bringing you full coverage of Nunavut’s upcoming sixteenth anniversary, but of course, we could not simply stand idly by while such a delightful discovery is out there for discussion.

So, we decided to examine it from the standpoint of a contemporary resident of the land that now makes up Nunavut.

But then we realised that humans have only resided in Nunavut for a few thousand years. So a contemporary resident would have been a caribou or something, which does not make for an exciting personal account, unless the caribou was engaged in a life or death struggle with a polar bear, or another caribou, or an aurora. And if it was, that would have nothing to do with the visiting binary system anyway.

So then we decided to do something normal, but with some sort of Nunavummiuq theme to it. For a discovery like this, we usually tend to open up the GoobNet Mailbox and receive your questions about it. And so, here it is: the Scholz’s Star GoobNet Mailbox, for Nunavut Residents Only!

What? We didn’t receive any questions about Scholz’s Star from Nunavut residents? Did we receive any questions from Nunavut residents?

Seriously? Where the hell are you, Nunavummiut? What’s so important in your lives that you can’t spare a few minutes to ask us about a dim star and its brown dwarf companion passing by us tens of thousands of years ago?

The food crisis? Not knowing where your next meal is coming from? Being treated like pawns in the political and socioeconomic chess matches that are constantly going on involving the Canadian federal government, your territorial government, and the large multinational firms that have increasingly more say over the way our world works? Okay, fine. We suppose we’ll accept that excuse this time.

What about the rest of Canada? Did they rise to the challenge and ask us questions about Scholz’s Star?

Wait, what? We haven’t received any questions about Scholz’s Star? From anyone?! Fine, whatever. We’ll just have Wen send us all the questions.

What is Scholz’s Star?

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

A star recently discovered from the WISE spacecraft’s infrared sky surveys, WISE J072003.20-084651.2, is a binary system of a small red dwarf star, spectral class M9.5, and a brown dwarf, spectral class T5. In the preprint paper discussing their findings, Eric Mamajek et al refer to the system as “Scholz’s star”. We will refer to the star as Scholz’s Star and the brown dwarf as its companion.

Why didn’t we know about it before?

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

It is small and dim. It is currently about seven parsecs from the Sun; even at that relatively small distance, it has an apparent magnitude of 18.

Have other stars passed this close to the Sun before?

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

No other stars are known to have passed this close to the Sun recently, or are projected to do so in the future. But it is estimated that another star passes within .25 pc of the Sun every 10,000,000 years or so. So we do get visitors from the stars on occasion.

That wouldn’t be a “visitor from the stars”. That would be a visitor that is a star. An object can’t be from itself.

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

Go away, Wen.

I can’t. I still have a few more questions about this.

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

Okay, fine. Go ahead.

Did this flyby send comets tumbling out of the Oort cloud toward the Sun?

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

Scholz’s Star and its companion are considered unlikely to have penetrated the inner Oort cloud. Any outer Oort cloud comets that would have been perturbed are expected to reach the inner solar system about 2,000,000 years from now.

Aren’t Scholz’s Star and its companion too dim to be naked eye visible, even at a quarter parsec?

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

Yes. They would have had an apparent magnitude of about 10, too dim to see with the naked eye. However, stars of this type have been known to have flares, several minutes long, that increase their brightness. Scholz’s Star could have been naked eye visible during such flares.

Why can’t just one astronomical story have something to do with Nunavut?

– Wen Jialuen
The cubicle at the end, SPEED offices

Actually, there is a story that is related to Nunavut. There is a sulfur bearing glacier on Ellesmere Island that is more similar to Europa than any other place on Earth. In fact, we know where we’re sending Amber Lynn next week!

Amber Lynn: Ah, fuck.

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