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Ask Ethan: When Will The Sun Make Earth Uninhabitable? (Synopsis)

3 Sep 2016, 14:03 UTC
Ask Ethan: When Will The Sun Make Earth Uninhabitable? (Synopsis)
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

“What, I sometimes wonder, would it be like if I lived in a country where winter is a matter of a few chilly days and a few weeks’ rain; where the sun is never far away, and the flowers bloom all year long?” -Anna Neagle
At some point in the future, the Sun, the giver and sustainer of nearly life on Earth as we know it, will run out of fuel. Powered by nuclear fusion, it turns hydrogen into helium, producing energy in the process. Yet the Sun has a finite mass, a finite rate-of-fusion, and someday will run out of hydrogen. When it does, bright as it may be today, it will cease to someday shine.
The anatomy of the Sun, including the inner core, which is the only place where fusion occurs. Image credit: NASA/Jenny Mottar.
But what does that mean for the Earth? Will we meet with a frozen demise as the Sun’s fuel slowly runs out? Will we roast when the Sun begins fusing helium and becomes a red giant? Or will there be an insidious death of the planet from a slow, subtle effect that might not be as intuitive?
In a world where the ...

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