The Sun Will Destroy Life On Earth In 1.75 Billion Years By Drying Up The Oceans, Researchers Say
Earth will only be around for another 1.75 billion years or so, according to a study published in the journal Astrobiology. Researchers from England's University of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences say that the sun will get hotter over time, drying up Earth's oceans (and thus killing us all). Andrew Rushby, the study's lead author, put it bluntly: "It will get progressively hotter and there's nothing we can do about it."
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As the sun gets hotter, it will push Earth outside of the habitable zone, the region around a star where planets with temperatures conducive to having surface water. So while the Earth won't be any closer or further from the sun in 1.75 billion years, it will be no longer be in this "Goldilocks zone" (as the region is also called) where temperatures don't either boil or freeze over the oceans.
Models of stellar evolution suggest that stars burn brighter as they age. The sun is no exception, and as it burns through its current "main sequence," the phase where hydrogen fuses into helium, the sun will warm up until it kills off life on Earth.
Rushby and his team studied the habitable lifetimes of seven planets that scientists believe could possibly support life. Although Rushby said that scientists have never found a "true Earth analogue," they looked at the closest possibilities, among them Gliese 581d, a planet outside of the Solar System which is believed to be within the habitable zone of its parent star.
"We used stellar evolution models to estimate the end of a planet's habitable lifetime by determining when it will no longer be in the habitable zone," said Rushby. "We estimate that Earth will cease to be habitable somewhere between 1.75 and 3.25 billion years from now. After this point, Earth will be in the 'hot zone' of the sun . . . . We would see a catastrophic and terminal extinction event for all life."
Assuming we haven't destroyed Earth ourselves by then -- which is always a possibility -- Rushby suggested we all decamp to Mars, something at least 200,000 people are interested in doing anyway.
"If we ever needed to move to another planet, Mars is probably our best bet," said Rushby. "It's very close and will remain in the habitable zone until the end of the sun's lifetime -- six billion years from now."
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