What Will Happen When Our Sun Dies?

Posted: May 9 2018, 1:18pm CDT | by , Updated: May 9 2018, 11:44pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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What will Happen When Our Sun Dies?
Credit: T.A.Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOAO/AURA/NSF) and B.A.Wolpa (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Scientists predict that the sun will turn into a massive ring of luminous, interstellar gas and dust, known as a planetary nebula

Scientists believe that our Sun will die in approximately 10 billion years. After running out of hydrogen, our host star will expand and become a red giant. This marks the final stage of the evolutionary path of a star. But what exactly will the sun look like after its life ends? Researchers predict the sun will turn into a massive ring of luminous, interstellar gas and dust, known as a planetary nebula.

All stars in the universe eventually die and our sun is no exception to that. Almost 90 percent of the stars shed most of their outer layers in the final stages of their life cycle, leaving behind a core remnant that contract to form a dense white dwarf. But scientists were initially not sure if our own host star would follow the same pattern. Sun is a relatively small star and researchers thought that its mass would be too low to create a visible planetary nebula.

To find out, researchers developed a new stellar, data-model that predicts the lifecycle of stars and looks at the brightness of the stars of different masses and ages.

"When a star dies it ejects a mass of gas and dust—known as its envelope—into space. The envelope can be as much as half the star's mass. This reveals the star's core, which by this point in the star's life is running out of fuel, eventually turning off and before finally dying,” said Professor Albert Zijlstra from the University of Manchester.

"It is only when the hot core makes the ejected envelope shine brightly for around 10,000 years – a brief period in astronomy. This is what makes the planetary nebula visible. Some are so bright that they can be seen from extremely large distances measuring tens of millions of light years, where the star itself would have been much too faint to see."

The new model shows that after the ejection of gas and dust, a star heats up relatively fast. It came up with a number three times faster than the previous models. That heat is enough for a low mass star, such as the sun, to form a bright planetary nebula. In fact, the sun is almost exactly the lowest mass star that can still produce a visible yet faint, planetary nebula. Stars even a few percents smaller than the sun would create an almost invisible planetary nebula.

"We found that stars with mass less than 1.1 times the mass of the sun produce fainter nebula, and stars more massive than 3 solar masses brighter nebulae, but for the rest, the predicted brightness is very close to what had been observed. Problem solved, after 25 years!,” said Professor Zijlstra.

"This is a nice result. Not only do we now have a way to measure the presence of stars of ages a few billion years in distant galaxies, which is a range that is remarkably difficult to measure, we even have found out what the sun will do when it dies!"

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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