Thanks to data from the Gaia mission of the European Space Agency (ESA, for its acronym in English), scientists have been able to take a look at the past and the future of the Sun. This gives a clue as to when the finish of the Land, since the death of the Sun will wipe out the inner planets when it becomes a red giant star. When will that be?
The Sun, like all stars, will one day die, and when it does so will the Earth. Although the star’s mass changes relatively little during its lifetime, the star’s temperature and size vary greatly as it ages. These changes are driven by the type of nuclear fusion reactions that take place inside the star.
The Sun will take billions of years to die
At around 4.57 billion years old, our Sun is currently in its comfortable middle age, fusing hydrogen into helium and generally being fairly stable. But this will not be so forever. As the hydrogen fuel runs out in its core and changes in the fusion process begin, the Sun will swell until it “explodes” into a red giant star, lowering its surface temperature in the process.
Exactly how this happens depends on the amount of mass a star contains and its chemical composition. That is precisely the mission of Gaia, to seek stars with the same mass and chemical composition as the Sun, to discover how it will evolve and when will be the end of our planet. It is paradoxical that the Sun is our closest and most studied star, but its proximity and brightness make it necessary to identify similar stars in order to make safe observations.
The Sun will become a red giant star and take the Earth with it.
Now we know: our Sun will reach a maximum temperature in about 8 billion years, then it will cool down and increase in size, becoming a red giant star around 10 to 11 billion years ago. When it does, it will deplete all of its hydrogen and “explode” wiping out Mercury, Venus, and Earth, the inner planets of the solar system.
The Sun will reach the end of its life after this phase, when eventually become a dim white dwarf.
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