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Surprising Science

What Will Happen as the Sun Dies

In about five billion years, scientists estimate, the Earth will be engulfed and burned up in the expanding radius of the Sun as it evolves into its slightly cooler but much larger phase.

What’s the Latest Development?

What with the sun acting up lately, firing a massive wave of radioactive plasma right at us, you would be forgiven for thinking Earth might be in real danger. Thankfully, it is not. Assuming we can outlast climate change, an asteroid strike or some absurd nuclear disaster, we will be on good terms with the sun for another five billion years, scientists estimate. After that, as the sun evolves into a red giant and prepares for its slow death, the Earth will be engulfed by its expanding radius.

What’s the Big Idea?

As the sun dies, its expanding radius will swallow Mercury and Venus about one million years before it reaches Earth, leaving only some of the outer planets to survive. So is there any chance that Earth will escape its fate? “Some have conjectured that it could be possible to engineer a way to expand Earth’s orbit by the small percentage needed to escape. It would involve arranging ‘a suitable encounter of the Earth every 6,000 years or so with a body of large asteroidal mass,’ perhaps objects in the Kuiper Belt.”

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