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Scientists reveal the Sun's ultimate fate

Posted on Tuesday, 8 May, 2018 | Comment icon 22 comments

The Sun will not last forever. Image Credit: SOHO/EIT
When our star eventually dies, it will go out in a blaze of glory and produce what is known as a planetary nebula.
At 4.6 billion years old, our Sun is vital to the survival of all life on Earth and always has been.

Originally formed from the gravitational collapse of matter within a large molecular cloud, our star is 109 times larger (in terms of diameter) and 330,000 times more massive than the Earth.

In around 5 billion years from now, it will expand to over 250 times its current size, swallowing up Mercury, Venus and the Earth as it becomes what is known as a red giant.

Exactly what will happen next however has long remained a topic of debate among scientists, but now an international team of astronomers believe that they may have finally found the answer.

In most cases, as a main-sequence star dies, it will collapse from a red giant in to a white dwarf, producing a glowing ring of gas and dust known as a planetary nebula.

Using a new model that can predict the life-cycle of stars, scientists have now been able to confirm that this is likely to happen in the case of the Sun as well.

"When a star dies it ejects a mass of gas and dust - known as its envelope - into space," said Professor Albert Zijlstra from the University of Manchester.

"This reveals the star's core, which by this point in the star's life is running out of fuel, eventually turning off and before finally dying. It is only then the hot core makes the ejected envelope shine brightly for around 10,000 years - a brief period in astronomy."

"This is what makes the planetary nebula visible. Some are so bright that they can be seen from extremely large distances measuring tens of millions of light years, where the star itself would have been much too faint to see."

Source: Sky News | Comments (22)

Tags: Sun, Red Giant, Nebula

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #13 Posted by SmartAZ on 14 May, 2018, 3:23
You can not rely on predictions of the future from people who can't even get the present straight. They assume the sun is powered by fusion, which implies the inside is hotter than the outside, and the reverse is true. Anybody who points that out gets personal insults in return. Scientists would rather be wrong than uncertain.
Comment icon #14 Posted by psyche101 on 14 May, 2018, 3:27
How do you come to this conclusion? That's not my experience
Comment icon #15 Posted by pallidin on 15 May, 2018, 6:51
The Sun is powered by fusion. That's a common fact. What else could all the stars in our universe be powered by?
Comment icon #16 Posted by danydandan on 15 May, 2018, 20:29
I'm pretty sure the Nanoflares paper cleared it up nicely.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 16 May, 2018, 20:31
He's come to that conclusion by hugely misinterpreting a single fact. The fact: the temperature of the solar photosphere is around 6,000oC, As you move away from the photosphere into the corona the temperature rises to several million oC. This rise in temperature is not fully understood. The misinterpretation: The photosphere is the visible surface of the sun, the corona is the very tenuous atmosphere above the photosphere. The outside of the sun IS NOT hotter than the inside. As already pointed out the surface of the sun is only 6,000oC. The core of the sun is at 15 MILLIONoC, considerably ho... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by danydandan on 17 May, 2018, 23:33
I think the SI units you used are incorrect, I think you mean Kelvin not Degrees Celsius ? So traveling outwards from the Core, which 15.7 million degree Kelvin, then the Radiative Zone, which is between 2 and 7 million degree Kelvin, then the Convection Zone which is less that 2 million degree Kelvin, then finally the Photosphere 5778 degree Kelvin. I think most people who think the inside of the sun is cooler than the outside if the Sun have no clue what the difference between temperature and heat is. So for anyone who doesn't understand heat is the transfer of energy from a hotter system to... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 18 May, 2018, 8:10
Nit picking. With temperatures this high it makes no practical difference.
Comment icon #20 Posted by danydandan on 18 May, 2018, 8:12
Just spreading the love.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 18 May, 2018, 8:13
Really. Try spreading factually correct love.
Comment icon #22 Posted by danydandan on 18 May, 2018, 8:16
I am hence the SI corrections. Edit: In retrospect, I must apologise as the difference between Kelvins and Celsius is negligible at these temperatures, as you stated and what I was doing was nitpicking. But it wasn't meant that way. So humblest apologies.

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