Friday, December 4, 2015

Red Giant ~ Swallowed by the Sun

Today on Far Future Horizons we present a horrific scenario. What if our life-giving Sun were to suddenly begin expanding into a Red Giant? A stellar Rip Van Winkle effect.

Something the Sun was not supposed to do until five billion years from now when it exhausts all its hydrogen fuel in its core and leaves the Main Sequence stage of its life. 

The current size of the Sun (now in the main sequence) compared to its estimated maximum size during its red-giant phase in the future

If the sun were suddenly to age several billions of year overnight, and became a Red Giant, the average global temperature would go up by 36 °F (2 °C). In Greenland and Antarctica, snow and ice would begin to melt. Sea levels around the world would rise by more than 200 feet (61 m), submerging coastal cities. Regular temperatures this hot, around 130 °F (54 °C), are hard for us to handle because if our body temperature increases by 6 °F (11 °C) to 7 °F (14 °C) for an extended period of time we can suffer permanent injury or death.

At 212 °F (100 °C), we can't survive. The heat, hot enough to boil water, would blind and suffocate us. The magnetosphere, an invisible field circling our planet that protects us from blasts of solar radiation, would begin to weaken. The only place humans could survive is underground, but the underground is also hot, so humans turn to wearing spacesuits.

At 300 °F (149 °C), water would begin to evaporate much faster than it does today. The sun would literally boil water off our Earth. Animals that breathe could not survive these temperatures. Even hardy creatures like cockroaches, which lack lungs, couldn't survive. The oxygen levels are so low that fires don't start and the clouds don't rain.

©David A. Hardy Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the Aftermath of a Red Giant

At 700 °F (371 °C), all human life on Earth would be finished. We couldn't even survive underground. Oceans would become deserts. Cement deteriorates, resulting in collapsing buildings. What is left burns, because oxygen levels shoot back up. The planet would start turning red at 2,400 °F (1,320 °C) as the iron in Earth's crust begins to rust.

As the sun expands on its way to becoming a Red Giant, its massive outer edges would begin to slow the Earth’s orbit. Our planet, now a fireball, burning up like a meteorite, would be swallowed by the sun.

The History Channel’s title for this documentary was Aftermath: Red Giant while the National Geographic Channel presented it under the title Naked Science: Swallowed by the Sun.

Red Giant ~ Swallowed by the Sun by singaporegeek
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