A recent study published in the Astronomy and Astrophysics journal has outlined a very interesting theory about the end of the world. According to the study, the end of all life on Earth does not need to come from a killer asteroid or an armada of hostile alien invaders attacking the planet. If humanity waits long enough, the end of the world would most likely happen after the sun expands up to 100 times its normal size, resulting in the mass extinction of all life on the planet.
As reported by the Daily Star, the researchers from Leuven, Belgium, have come up with the doomsday scenario after observing the evolution of stars that are very similar to the sun. Using some of the world’s most advanced radio telescopes, the astronomers were able to conclude that eventually, the sun would experience a change which would trigger massive growth. Professor Leen Decin of the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy described the team’s findings.
“Five billion years from now, the sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size. It will also experience an intense mass loss through a very strong stellar wind. The end product of its evolution, seven billion years from now, will be a tiny white dwarf star. This will be about the size of the Earth, but much heavier: one teaspoon of white dwarf material weighs about five tons.”
With the sun expanding by as much as 100 times, it would most likely swallow up the first two planets in the solar system, Mercury and Venus. As for the Earth, the intense heat resulting from the sun’s massive growth would leave the surface completely scorched and unable to sustain any form of life.
“We already know that our sun will be bigger and brighter so that it will probably destroy any form of life on our planet,” Professor Decin said, according to The Sun.
While the scenario is very dramatic to the point where it would not be out of place in a sci-fi movie, the circumstances that the study outlined have actually happened to a nearby star in the past. Using the ALMA radio telescope, a revolutionary device which uses 66 radio antennas to form an enormous virtual telescope that is practically 10 miles in diameter, the researchers were able to closely observe L2 Puppis, a star located 208 light years away.
What is particularly interesting about L2 Puppis is that it shares numerous similarities with the sun. According to Ward Homan, a Ph.D. student in astrophysics, there was a time when the nearby star was an almost identical twin to the solar system’s very own star. Now, however, the star is very different, with the planets orbiting it serving as a grim reminder of what might happen to the Earth.
“We discovered that L2 Puppis is about 10 billion years old. Five billion years ago, the star was an almost perfect twin of our Sun as it is today, with the same mass. One-third of this mass was lost during the evolution of the star. The same will happen with our sun in the very distant future.”
Just like what might happen to the sun, the researchers believe that L2 Puppis expanded dramatically before losing much of its mass, according to the Daily Mail. During this time, the planets orbiting it were most likely lost. Currently, an object that the astronomers suspect is one of the planets in its solar system could still be detected orbiting the giant star. Scientists believe that the planet, which is located about 186 million miles away from L2 Puppis, might provide clues as to what might happen to the Earth when the sun starts expanding.
As much as the doomsday scenario is quite disturbing, numerous netizens have reacted quite nonchalantly to the news. Considering that the sun’s expansion is expected to begin in about 5 billion years, numerous netizens stated that humanity might have already wiped itself out by overpopulation, war, or environmental damage by the time the sun starts killing the planet. Others, who are more optimistic, stated that if humanity is still alive by then, it would most likely be advanced enough that colonizing other planets would be possible. While this latest end of the world scenario is arguably the most plausible one yet, people have more than enough time to prepare and adapt to the challenges that are to come.
[Featured Image by Atul Zende/Shutterstock]