For many years, astronomical technology has advanced, and with these instruments, scientists have been able to calculate how long it will take for the sunlight to wane and switch off, ending in the final death of the solar mass.
The sun is in a phase known as the “main sequence”, in which the nuclear fusion of hydrogen allows it to radiate energy and provide enough pressure to prevent the star from collapsing under its own mass, something that they predict will happen in about 5 billion years.
“The sun is a little less than 5 billion years old. It’s a kind of middle-age star, in the sense that its life is going to be of the order of 10 billion years or so,” explained Paola Testa, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics, a cooperation between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard University Observatory.
According to the astrophysicist, the sun will enter its next phase as a red giant after burning most of the hydrogen in its core. This will happen in about 5 billion years when the sun stops producing heat and its nuclear fusion and core become unstable and contract.
According to NASA, while this is happening, the outer half of the sun will still contain hydrogen and will expand and glow red as it cools, which is natural for a star.
This process will force the sun to consume the planets nearest to it, such as Mercury and Venus, as well as increase solar winds, which will cancel out the Earth’s magnetic field and destroy its atmosphere. All of this would be disastrous for any remaining life on Earth, if it survived the 10% rise in brightness from the sun, which, according to Geophysical Research Letters, has the potential to vaporize the oceans in 1 billion to 1.5 billion years.
Before collapsing to its core, the sun will begin to fuse the helium left over from the fusion of hydrogen into carbon and oxygen, resulting in a planetary nebula, while its outer layers are reduced to a hotter, denser stellar corpse the size of Earth, resulting in a white dwarf.
This nebula can be seen for 10,000 years. When it comes to the sun, Testa says it will take billions of years for what’s left of it to stop emitting.
“By putting together lots of different information from lots of different stars, astronomers and astrophysicists could build a model for how stars evolve,” concluded Testa.
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