Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Research Suggests Our Sun Won"t Form a Planetary Nebula

You have probably heard that the Sun will turn into a red giant in about 5 billion years. And you probably know that this will result in not-so-fun times for any being still on planet Earth. As it transitions from a main sequence star into a red giant, the outer layers of the Sun will expand across the solar system. When this happens, our life-giving star will turn into an object of utter destruction. The Sun will expand beyond Mercury. It will expand beyond Venus. It will sweep across the entirety of the inner solar system in a mere 5 million years. When it finally stops its expansion, the searing tips of the solar surface will rest beyond the bounds of Earth’s orbit. In short: if we aren’t knocked out of the solar system as the Sun expands, or moved into a larger orbit as it loses mass...we will be consumed.

But what happens to the Sun after it becomes a red giant? We have a pretty good handle on the fate of our own world...but what about the Sun itself?

We once thought it would turn into a planetary nebula, but we might be wrong on that one.

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Image Credit: ESO/S. Steinhöfel

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