This Is What Will Happen To Our Sun After It Dies
“During the red giant phase, Mercury and Venus will certainly be engulfed by the Sun, while Earth may or may not, depending on certain processes that have yet to be fully worked out. The icy worlds beyond Neptune will likely melt and sublimate, and are unlikely to survive the death of our star.
Once the Sun’s outer layers are returned to the interstellar medium, all that remains will be a few charred corpses of worlds orbiting the white dwarf remnant of our Sun. The core, largely composed of carbon and oxygen, will total about 50% the mass of our present Sun, but will only be approximately the physical size of Earth.”
Looking forward in time, the death of our Sun is easy to envision, as we’ve seen Sun-like stars in their dying phases and immediately afterwards plenty of times. But what happens after that, in the far future? Will our Sun’s corpse remain a white dwarf forever? Will it simply cool down, radiating heat away? Or will something exciting happen?
Maybe we’ll get ejected from the galaxy. Maybe we’ll get devoured by a black hole. Maybe we’ll merge with another object, or experience an interaction that forever changes us from what we were. Maybe we’ll even experience a cataclysm that destroys our stellar corpse entirely!
Although the possibilities are fascinating, there’s an overwhelming statistical likelihood that points to one particular outcome. What is it? Find out today!
The Sun Will Someday Die, And That’s Why You’re Alive
“It’s true: death comes for us all. It comes for everyone we know and don’t know; it comes for everyone that will ever live. After we’re all dead for billions of years, the Sun will die, too.
But that’s not the full story, and it leaves out the best part. A star’s death brings a remarkable story of cosmic rebirth and possibilities for life to the Universe. It is a story of creation that goes hand-in-hand with destruction, and it follows just below. Give it a shot. It just might be the most remarkable, wonderful story an elementary schoolchild could hope to hear.”
It was a few years ago that I got one of those questions that has stuck in my mind ever since. In particular, it was a message from an elementary school teacher who had a distraught child. The teacher asked me:
“I need a good explanation for a third grader, whose Mom tells me is deeply concerned, that the sun will blow up.”
This is one of the toughest truths about the Universe that many of us will ever learn. The answers to it can make you feel small, inconsequential, and meaningless at times.
But the answer can also make you feel like you’re a part of the biggest, most meaningful thing of all. Here’s a version of the story we all should hear at least once.
Astronomers Discover Exactly How Galaxies Die
“Our Milky Way contains large star-forming regions, mostly along its spiral arms, indicating stellar life. But other, mostly elliptical galaxies, stopped forming stars many billions of years ago. These galaxies are called red-and-dead, because they don’t have any hot, young, blue stars associated with recent star formation. Since the hottest, bluest stars burn through their fuel the fastest, an intrinsic red color is evidence that no new stars have formed for a long time.”
With hundreds of billions of stars burning inside a typical galaxy, it seems like a stretch to call any such object already “dead.” But if you aren’t actively forming new stars, and you don’t have the material in you to form new stars in the future, “dead” is exactly what you are, whether you realize it or not. We’ve had a number of theories, for a long time, as to why a galaxy could lose its gas and burn out, but for the first time, we’ve discovered one in the nearby Universe. Just 240 million light years away, the galaxy NGC 1277 has a unique set of circumstances:
- it’s moving very quickly through the intra-cluster medium,
- it contains an ultra-massive black hole at its core,
- and both its stars and globular clusters are overwhelmingly red.
It looks as though it hasn’t formed new stars in some 10 billion years, making it the oldest, deadest galaxy we’ve ever seen up close!
Come learn all about it, and what it means for the deaths of galaxies, on this edition of Mostly Mute Monday!