If nature is left to its own devices, about 7.59 billion years from now Earth will be dragged from its orbit by an engorged red Sun and spiral to a rapid vaporous death. That is the forecast according to new calculations by a pair of astronomers, Klaus-Peter Schroeder of the University of Guanajuato in Mexico and Robert Connon Smith of the University of Sussex in England.
Their report, to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is the latest and gloomiest installment yet in a long-running debate about the ultimate fate of our planet. Only last year, the discovery of a giant planet orbiting the faint burned-out cinder of a star in Pegasus had suggested that Earth could survive the Sunâ€™s death.
Dr. Smith called the new result â€œa touch depressingâ€ in a series of e-mail messages. But â€œlooked at another way,â€ he added, â€œit is an incentive to do something about finding ways to leave our planet and colonize other areas in the galaxy.â€
I am assuming (and hoping) Dr. Smith has a very geeky sense of humor. I am just trying to make it past 2012. If, however, we do make it through 7.59 billions years, surely we will have at least figured out time travel. If not, we probably don’t deserve to stick around anyway.
Unrelatedly, this picture kind of reminds me of the sun in the opening scene of Watership Down, which always terrified and captivated me as a child.
Eeeee, the scene at the end of that clip still gives me the shivers.