A Dying Star Foreshadows Earth's Demise

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 - 3:51PM
Astrophysics
Sun
Earth
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 - 3:51PM
A Dying Star Foreshadows Earth's Demise
A spectacular celestial event might may foreshadow an ominous fate for Earth. Leen Decin, professor at the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy in Belgium, has just used the world's most powerful telescope to observe a dying star that is following a similar trajectory to our Sun, just a few billion years ahead.

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"Five billion years from now, the sun will have grown into a red giant star more than a hundred times larger than its current size," Decin says in an article in Astronomy and Astrophysics. "It will also experience an intense mass loss through a very strong stellar wind. The end product of its evolution, seven billion years from now, will be a tiny white dwarf star."
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But even that ordeal is not guarantee enough that the Earth will end. Our rocky core may still be able to survive the giant red phase and continuing orbiting in the white dwarf. 

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In order to find out once and for all if the Earth is doomed, astronomers observed the star L2 Puppis, which has been an almost exact replica of our Sun for five billion years. One-third of the star's mass was lost during its evolution, and the same thing will happen when our Sun goes through the red giant and white dwarf phases. 

A deeper understanding of the interactions between L2 Puppis and its planet, which was recently discovered orbiting the star, can be directly translated into a deeper understanding of the Earth's chances of survival, Decin says. Keeping an eye on Puppis's planet is essential to figuring out the eventual evolution of our Sun, and its impact on all of the planets in the solar system, especially Earth.
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