Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Good news: How the Earth will survive when the Sun becomes a supergiant

09.01.2002


The astronomy textbooks will have to be rewritten, say astrophysicists at the University of Sussex who have re-examined standard calculations about solar evolution and the distant future of the Earth.

The textbooks tell us that one day the Sun will burn up its nuclear fuel and expand to an enormous size, finally engulfing its inner planets including Earth. However, using the latest data based on real stars, the University of Sussex researchers suggest a (slightly) less catastrophic future for our planet.

As their hydrogen fuel runs out at the end of their ‘lives’, stars like the Sun expand to become a red supergiant of several hundred times their initial diameter. Most astronomers expect the solar red supergiant to swallow Mercury, Venus and then Earth in about 7.5 billion years’ time, when it has expanded beyond the orbit of our planet.



But Earth may survive after all, say the Sussex astronomers, if an important extra detail is considered: the ongoing loss of mass and weakening gravity while a star is a red supergiant.

Dr Robert Smith, Reader in Astronomy, explains the significance of this effect: “Taking this into account, the orbit of the Earth would increase beyond the Sun’s outer atmosphere by a small but crucial margin at all phases of the Sun’s evolution – allowing our planet to continue.”

The new calculations are published in the current issue of Astronomy & Geophysics. They were made by Dr Smith together with Dr Klaus-Peter Schröder from the University’s Astronomy Centre and Kevin Apps, the famous student stargazer who co-discovered 10 planets while still an undergraduate at Sussex.

Although the Earth may survive, long before then its surface will have become too hot to sustain human life. But the good news from the team of researchers is that it will be 5.7 billion years before our planet becomes a no-go zone for life – about 200 million years later than previously thought.

So, ask the Sussex astronomers, is there anywhere in the solar system that would be safe, or does our survival depend on finding another star system? Is it possible to hop outwards from one planet or satellite to the next, always keeping ahead of the Sun? There are periods, they calculate, when we could in principle survive on one of the outer planets such as Mars, but there will be long gaps when none of them is habitable.

Dr Smith concludes: “We had better get used to the idea that we shall need to build our own survival capsules - the planets are simply too far apart for planet-hopping to be a viable solution. Perhaps this is the ultimate justification for developing an International Space Station.”

Peter Simmons | alphagalileo

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion
16.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire

nachricht NASA keeps watch over space explosions
16.11.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New materials: Growing polymer pelts

19.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Earthquake researchers finalists for supercomputing prize

19.11.2018 | Information Technology

Controlling organ growth with light

19.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>