Scientists predict that the Sun will die in the next five to seven billion years. The Sun is in fact a star, and all stars eventually die. Unfortunately, when our star dies, it will take the Earth along with it.
Towards its death, our medium-sized star will expand into a red blazing giant and it’ll vaporize the Earth. This is not good news for those who will be living seven billion years from now.
How The Death Will Occur
In about one billion years from now, the Sun should use all hydrogen fuel in its core, forcing it to burn to its surface. The increasing radiation will boil away all the water on the Earth, creating a desert on the entire surface.
Fast-forward to five billion years from now, the swelling Sun will start to melt the mountains, destroying not most, but all life on the Earth.
In about seven and a half billion years from now, the already red blazing giant will swallow the Earth entirely.
Can We Avoid The Sun’s Death?
Our best bet in controlling this situation lies in the so-called gravity assist. This concept is in fact the launching of space crafts into the solar system.
Anytime a satellite or spacecraft comes close to a planet, gravity comes into action. If the spacecraft arrives at a perfect angle, it uses the velocity of the planet, to further catapult itself into space. This additional energy of the spacecraft comes from the planet’s own energy, which it uses to orbit around the Sun.
However, in Isaac Newton’s words, to every action, there is an equivalent and opposite reaction. Let’s look at the situation from Earth’s point of view. If the spacecraft uses its gravity to speed up and move, the Earth will slow down a bit and start moving towards the spacecraft.
However, since the mass of the spacecraft is way too small when compared to the Earth, it’ll get launched significantly far, while the Earth will experience only a small change in movement.
How To Make A Difference
If we want to make a difference, we need to use something bigger. Let’s say we were to increase the size of the spacecraft, or perhaps use an asteroid. In this situation, we could hypothetically move the orbit of the Earth away from the Sun. However, for this to happen, we would need millions of years. Also, we’ll have to use very large objects, which would need to come dangerously close to the Earth. But, didn’t we say earlier that we still have a few billions of years till the death of our solar system?
Do you know that experiments are already happening? The spacecraft Juno was launched into space in 2013 towards Jupiter. Juno successfully landed Jupiter in 2016, to help uncover some of the secrets of our solar system.
To slowly pull the Earth away from the Sun, we would need a 100 km wide asteroid, coming across in every 6,000 years, to create a slingshot effect between the Sun and Jupiter, and to pull the Earth slowly away, at a distance of 225 million km.
What Are The Consequences?
However, this plan on how to deal with the dying Sun does not come without consequences. For instance, we could lose the moon, which will result in other consequences, such as extreme weather and climate events. Then the Earth’s spin may prolong, making days way shorter, and the orbits of the planets nearby may destabilize.
So, the big question is, are these risks worth giving the Earth a few more billion years of life? Or should we look for some other solutions? Like populating some other solar system? Additional research needs to be done for sure. Luckily, we still have time.
To be able to visualize this, watch the video down below.