(ORDO NEWS) — What will our Sun look like after it dies? Scientists have predicted what the last days of the solar system will look like, and when it will happen. There will probably no longer be people around to see the end of the Sun.
Astronomers previously thought the Sun would turn into a planetary nebula, a glowing bubble of gas and cosmic dust, but the data didn’t confirm it should be any more massive.
The Sun is about 4.6 billion years old, measured by the age of other objects in the solar system that formed around the same time. Based on observations of other stars, astronomers predict that it will reach the end of its life in about 10 billion years.
Of course, there are other things that will happen along the way. In about 5 billion years, the Sun should turn into a red giant. The core of the star will shrink, but its outer layers will expand to the orbit of Mars, swallowing our planet in the process. If he’s still there.
One thing is certain: by that time, human civilization will no longer be on Earth. In fact, humanity only has about 1 billion years left if we don’t find a way to get out to other star systems. This is because the Sun’s brightness increases by about 10 percent every billion years.
It doesn’t sound like much, but this increase in brightness will end life on Earth. The oceans will evaporate and the surface will become too hot for water to form. We will be close to the end.
It turned out that it is difficult to determine what happens after the red giant. Several previous studies have shown that for a bright planetary nebula to form, the original star must be twice as massive as the Sun.
However, in a 2018 study, scientists determined that, like 90 percent of other stars, the Sun is likely to shrink from a red giant to a white dwarf and then become a planetary nebula.
“When a star dies, it ejects into space a mass of gas and dust called a shell. It can be up to half the mass of a star.
This shows the core of the star, which by this point in the life of the star runs out of fuel, which eventually shuts down and before finally dying,” explained astrophysicist Albert Zijlstra from the University of Manchester in the UK.
Planetary nebulae are relatively common throughout the observable universe, with the famous Spiral Nebula, Cat’s Eye Nebula, Ring Nebula, and Bubble Nebula among them.
They are called planetary nebulae, not because they actually have anything to do with planets, but because when they were first discovered by William Herschel in the late 18th century, they were similar in appearance to planets in the telescopes of the time.
Nearly 30 years ago, astronomers noticed something unusual: the brightest planetary nebulae in other galaxies are about the same level of brightness. This means that by looking at planetary nebulae in other galaxies, astronomers can calculate how far away they are.
The data showed that this was correct, but the models contradicted this, which has been troubling scientists since the discovery.
“Old, low-mass stars should form much fainter planetary nebulae than younger, more massive stars.
This has become a source of conflict over the past 25 years,” Zijlstra said.
“The data said you could get bright planetary nebulae from low mass stars like the Sun, the models said that was impossible, anything less than about twice the mass of the Sun would give a planetary nebula too faint to you could see her.”
The 2018 models solved this problem by showing that the Sun has roughly a lower mass limit for a star that can form a visible nebula.
Even a star with a mass less than 1.1 solar masses would not create a visible nebula. On the other hand, larger stars, 3 times as massive as the Sun, will create brighter nebulae.
For all other stars in between, the predicted brightness is very close to the observed one.
“It’s a good result,” Zijlstra said. “Now we not only have a way to measure the presence of billion-year-old stars in distant galaxies, which is surprisingly difficult to measure, we even figured out what the Sun will do when it dies!”
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