“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” -G. K. Chesterton
Worried about the environment of Earth today? Here’s a sobering fact: we already know how it’s all going to end. Not just when the next ice age will come or the next supervolcano will blow, but on cosmic scales stretching billions of years into the future and beyond. From the death of life on Earth to the end of the Sun, we can predict some major catastrophes our Solar System will face.
The Earth, if calculations are correct, should not be engulfed by the Sun when it swells into a red giant. It should, however, become very, very hot. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Fsgregs.
But even after the Sun has died, the Earth and what’s left of our parent star will likely stick around for more. The matter expelled by our Sun will ignite new stars, which will die as well. White dwarfs will cool off into black dwarfs, and the Universe will go dark. And yet, thanks to gravitational effects, more interactions, on long enough timescales, will still remain.
Inspiraling, merging or colliding with another burned out star may be our Sun’s ...