Have you ever wondered about Earth death? Though there have been several rumors saying that the planet will enter a black hole or a huge asteroid collision can lead to its ending, there is no specific reason or proof for the same. However, now, it is being said that Earth can get swallowed by the Sun in around 5 billion years. According to a report by AFP, scientists have observed a dying star swallowing a planet for the first time, offering a preview of Earth’s expected fate in around five billion years.
Most planets are believed to meet their end when their host star runs out of energy, turning into a red giant that massively expands, devouring anything unlucky enough to be in its path. “But when the Sun finally does engulf Earth, it will cause only a “tiny perturbation” compared to this cosmic explosion, the US astronomers said,” according to the report. Notably, astronomers had previously seen the before-and-after effects of this process, but had never before caught a planet in the act of being consumed.
The scientists have estimated that it was likely a hot, Jupiter-sized world that spiraled close, then was pulled into the dying star’s atmosphere, and, finally, into its core. A similar fate will befall the Earth, though not for another 5 billion years when the sun is expected to burn out and burn up the solar system’s inner planets.
Kishalay De, a postdoc researcher at MIT in the United States and the lead author of the new study, said the accidental discovery unfolded like a “detective story”. “It all started about three years ago when I was looking at data from the Zwicky Transient Facility survey, which takes images of the sky every night,” De told an online press conference, as quoted by AFP.
He stumbled across a star that had suddenly increased in brightness by more than 100 times over a 10-day period. Published in the journal, ‘Nature’, the planetary extinction appears to have occurred in our own galaxy, around 12000 light-years away, near the eagle-like constellation Aquila.
“If some other civilization was observing us from 10,000 light-years away while the sun was engulfing the Earth, they would see the sun suddenly brighten as it ejects some material, then form dust around it, before settling back to what it was,” De added.
Morgan MacLeod, a postdoc at Harvard University and co-author of the study, published in the journal Nature, said that most of the thousands of planets discovered outside the Solar System so far “will eventually suffer this fate”. And in comparison, Earth will most likely end not with a bang but a whimper.
When the Sun expands past Mercury, Venus and Earth in an estimated five billion years, they will make “less dramatic disturbances” because rocky planets are so much smaller than gas giants, MacLeod said. “In fact, they will be really minor perturbations to the power output of the Sun,” he said.
But even before it gets swallowed, Earth will already be “quite inhospitable,” because the dying Sun will have already evaporated all the planet’s water, MacLeod added.