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Scientists Say Mercury's Orbit Could Cause It To One Day Crash Into Earth

Dr. Ken Croswell is an astronomer from Berkeley, California and author of a number of books in astronomy. Dr. Michio Kaku and he talk about the planet mercury and the likelihood of its orbit causing it to one day crash into Earth.

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"In the next five billion years there is about a one percent chance that mercury's orbit will become so elliptical that it will cross the orbit of Venus and at that point there could be serious troubles for the earth."

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TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

Lets talk a little bit about the planet mercury, mercury is a very small object very close to the planet, very close to the sun I am sorry and that is why the Greeks and Romans said that claimed that mercury was a god of speed because it races across the sky, but some people have claimed that maybe the orbit of mercury is unstable and perhaps will eventually crash into the planet earth, now how can that be? - well this has been known for a few years and indeed people in the know have been worrying about this, mercury actually has a rather interesting orbit because its orbit is almost as elliptical as that of the planet Pluto, Pluto of course cross the orbit of Neptune and its closest to the sun and mercury it doesn't cross the orbit of any other planet but its orbit is almost as elliptical as Pluto, and it turns out that Jupiter which is the most massive planet in our solar system exerts a gravitational force on mercury that can actually cause the orbit of mercury to become even more elliptical and when scientists do simulations of the future of our solar system they find that in about one percent of cases mercury's orbit gets so elliptical that mercury actually crosses the orbit of the next planet out which is the planet Venus and it seems to be a secure result. So in other words in the next five billion years there is about a one percent chance that mercury's orbit will become so elliptical that it will cross the orbit of Venus and at that point there could be serious troubles for the earth, okay because  if mercury just keeps on growing  it could crash into the earth or its gravity could disturb the orbits of Venus and mars and cause one of those two plants to crash into the earth, now I don't think I have to tell you that an entire planet crashing into the earth would be the worst catastrophe you could imagine it would make the extinction of the dinosaurs which was caused by a mere asteroid look like not really a big deal. I mean it would obliterate all life on earth so we do not a planet like mercury or Venus or mars crashing into the earth.