Like Oedipus, Macbeth or a secondary character in a Final destination Film, our planet faces a bleak and inescapable fate. And now we have the opportunity to see what it might look like.
In about five billion years, the sun will run out of hydrogen to fuel the nuclear reactions that burn at its core and become a red giant. According to astronomers, the atmosphere of our star will expand into the solar system, swallowing Mercury, Venus and finally the Earth before it stops its cataclysmic expansion near Mars.
Eventually, the sun will collapse into a small, dense point of light: a white dwarf. For several billion years, it will emit a latent glow over the place where life as we know it used to exist.
Astronomers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom announced that they found evidence of a planet similar to Earth that had a similar fate. What remains of the planet orbits a white dwarf 410 light years from Earth, turning dangerously close to its host star.
A closer relationship, in the end.
Although the distant star used to be twice the mbad of our sun, it has now collapsed into a dense coil about the size of Earth. The planetary fragment surrounds the white dwarf so close that its orbit would have fit within the star before it collapsed.
"The severity of the white dwarf is so strong, some 100,000 times that of Earth, that a typical asteroid will be shattered by gravitational forces if it pbades too close," lead author Christopher Manser said in a statement.
The researchers theorize that the object they have found is not a typical asteroid. It is a piece of heavy iron-rich metal that used to be the nucleus of a larger rocky planet like ours. Some time after the collapse of the star, a disturbance may have taken the planet to a closed orbit around the white dwarf, where the intense gravitational forces stripped its outer layers until only its solid iron core remained.
We will always have Mars
The findings paint a spooky portrait for the future of our planet. "The general consensus is that from 5 to 6 billion years from now, our Solar System will be a white dwarf instead of the Sun, orbited by Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the outer planets, as well as asteroids and comets," said Manser. .
If our species survives to see the sun die, the Earth will not float through space like a cemetery or monument to humanity's past. Every possible trace that we have been here will be incinerated or crushed gravitationally, unless billions of years from now we find some way to bury a sign about 3,200 miles (5,100 km) below the surface in the inner core of our planet.