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Graphic shows planets’ grim fate as Sun dies

  • Catastrophes listed; Sun’s expansion inevitable
  • Red giant phase in 5 billion years
  • Earth’s fate uncertain; outer planets affected

An extensive enumeration of potential catastrophes appears, from robot annihilation to a comprehensive nuclear conflict.

However, if those dreadful destinies foreshadow us, there is one catastrophe that the planet cannot avert.

A horrifying diagram illustrates the Sun’s transformation into a colossal “red giant” star, which will engulf the entire solar system as we know it.

Even though this may appear terrifying, there is no need to begin fretting.

Senior astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich, Dr. Edward Bloomer, estimated that the Sun will likely enter its red giant phase in the vicinity of 5 billion years from now. Thus, we now have some leisure!’

Like other stars, our Sun is a massive nuclear crucible in which helium atoms collide via gravitational force.

This immense gravitational force maintains the orbits of innumerable solar system objects, including the eight planets.

In contrast, the thermal energy produced during nuclear fusion is discharged into the cosmos, establishing a habitable zone that extends from the periphery of Venus to the orbit of Mars.

Dr. Bloomer, nevertheless, informed me that this would all change in due course.

Within five to five and a half billion years, the Sun will initiate the process of undergoing a red giant transition.

Dr. Bloomer explains, “This essentially occurs when the sun runs out of hydrogen to fuse in its core.”

When the Sun eventually depletes its hydrogen reserves, the gravitational attraction will initiate a process of core collapse.

The pressure and heat generated by the inward collapse of the outer layers will escalate to such an extent that carbon atoms will fuse with helium atoms within these layers.

The resultant surge in energy will induce the Sun to enlarge by hundreds of times its initial magnitude and transition from a white to a reddish-hot state.

According to Mr. Bloomer, although this process “doesn’t quite resemble the flip of a switch,” it will inevitably result in the solar system’s demise.

At the moment, the diameter of the Sun is approximately 1.4 million kilometers (865,000 miles).

However, transforming into a red giant, its diameter could increase to 186 million miles (300 million km), more than 200 times its current size.

Mercury and Venus, the innermost planets, will be entrained into the Sun and annihilated.

Nevertheless, according to Dr. Bloomer, the precise dimensions of red giants remain unknown, placing the Earth in a peculiar position.

The Earth may be doomed at a distance of 148.22 million kilometers (93 million miles) from the Sun.

However, 186 million miles represents the Sun’s absolute maximum expansion, and it may not even approach this magnitude.

Dr. Bloomer stated, “At the very highest end of possible sizes, the Earth could be completely engulfed by the Sun; that would be the end.” Towards the lower limit, consumption may be precluded.

However, it is still bad news even if the Sun does not completely consume Earth.

Dr. Bloomer stated, “The Earth’s surface temperature will cause the atmosphere to disintegrate and the oceans to molten.”

“The “Earth” that remains would, at best, be a radiation-blasted sphere of lifeless rock,” he continues.

Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter will all be consumed by the expanding red giant’s intense heat, ensuring that not even the outer planets are spared.

A phenomenon known as “photoevaporation” could cause the Sun to evaporate if its mass increases significantly, as stellar emissions deplete the atmosphere enveloping it.

Dr. Bloomer explains, nevertheless, that certain models predict Saturn could unexpectedly locate itself within the Sun’s new habitable zone.

Certain models indicate that the region surrounding Saturn’s distance from the Sun might have a temperate climate. Although life is unattainable on Saturn, could the planet’s moon Titan be habitable?

Due to the extremely low temperatures, it is presently inhabited by a dense, unbreathable atmosphere and reservoirs of liquid ethane and methane. However, ongoing research is focused on determining what would occur there if it were to heat up.

In approximately seven billion years, the Sun will completely deplete its energy and initiate ejecting its outermost layers into space, producing a planetary nebula.

These enormous, ring-shaped formations result from the expulsion of most of a fading star’s remaining mass before transforming into a hot white dwarf star.

Sun’s Final Transformation Glimpsed

Last year, the James Webb Space Telescope captured images of the Messier 57, also known as the Ring Nebula. These images provide us with an indication of the future form that our Sun may assume.

During these concluding phases, the Sun will eliminate the outermost planets from its orbit, finalizing its solar system transformation.

Due to the immense forces involved, Uranus and Neptune will be carried away from the solar system if the Sun loses fifty percent of its mass during this process.

The extent to which the Oort cloud and asteroid belt, which also orbit the Sun, are impacted is contingent upon their distance from the Sun.

Asteroid belt objects may be heated to such extremities as the Sun saturates to its final giant size, causing frozen gases and water to sublimate away, leaving behind only metal cores.

However, very little will alter within the Oort cloud, a vast expanse of rocky material between 0.079 and 1.58 light years from the Sun.

Dr. Bloomer explains, “In one sense, they might not notice all that much because they are simply too distant.”

However, slight disturbances in the Solar System’s angular momentum, induced by the Sun’s expansion, might impact regions such as the Oort cloud, potentially resulting in adjustments to the orbits of celestial bodies within that extensive sphere.

However, it is unlikely to have a profound impact comparable to the changes observed within the inner Solar System.

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