According to chaos theory, this means that many millions of years from now, the Earth's orbit may have been substantially altered by this seemingly tiny event.
In recent years, computers have become powerful enough to simulate the formation and evolution of planetary systems over many billions of years. Simulations predict that gravitational encounters between objects large and small have been rearranging the solar system since it formed some 4.6 billion years ago.
In the solar system's early days, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune migrated farther from the sun though gravitational pinball with smaller bodies. They piled the debris into the Kuiper belt of comets and icy dwarf planets.
Planetary systems reshaped by gravitational scatter look more like the norm than the exception around other stars.
A carefully programmed series of asteroid/minor planetary body close encounters with Earth could be used by our distant descendants to modify our orbit such that we nudge our planet farther from the sun as our star grows hotter and brighter in the coming billion years.