Study Predicts: 'How the sun will die' - Insight Trending
cover pic credit:
ESO
Scientists predict that the Sun will begin dying in around 10 billion years from now, but it’s impossible to know exactly how it will all go down.

Most of the stars end their lives as so-called planetary nebulas which is a avast, spherical clouds of luminous gas and dust. Many researchers think this is what will happen to the sun.

In a new research paper published in Nature Astronomy a team of astronomers from around the world have developed a scientific model which they used to predict the life cycle of stars and the brightness of the nebula associated with different star masses and ages. According to this model, the Sun is large enough to produce a planetary nebula in its wake, leaving a dusty, glowing cloud of material. However, the dust cloud will be relatively faint.

"When a star dies it ejects a mass of gas and dust—known as its envelope—into space,” said Albert Zijlstra, one of the authors of the new study, “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, before finally dying.”

“It is only then 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.”


An image of the planetary nebula known as Abell 39. Pic: TA Rector and BA Wolpa


Professor Zijlstra added: “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!

“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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