What will happen to the Earth after the death of the Sun: scientists have found an encouraging clue

Yulia PoteriankoNews
Scientists suggest that some planets can survive the death of their star

The destruction of the Sun and the fate of the Earth is a matter of a very distant future, estimated at about 5 billion years. But it still worries scientists. Astronomers study different types of stars and star systems to predict further developments.

Observations of white dwarfs can currently provide the most information, as these are low-brightness stars (about 1% of the Sun's brightness) near which you can try to see planets. Scientists studying four such stars within 75 light-years of the Earth can already make some assumptions. According to, they have published their data on the pre-publication service, and the data is encouraging.

According to current science, when the Sun turns into a red giant in 5 billion years, it will probably swallow Mercury, Venus, and even the Earth. The rest of the planets, if they do not suffer the same fate, may be pushed out of the solar system. But there is a chance that some may still survive.

Using NASA's JWST space telescope, astronomers have for the first time obtained direct images of planets outside the Solar System. They orbit white dwarfs - dead stars that remain after they have passed the stage of red giants. It turned out that the orbits of these planets resemble the orbits of giant planets from the outer edge of our system. Currently, these data still need to be verified and refined, but the potential discovery could be very exciting, said Mary Ann Limbach of the University of Michigan.

Science has concluded that the red giant stage ends for a star when it sheds its envelope, and then the object turns into a white dwarf. The size of such stars is comparable to the size of the Earth. Earlier, astronomers recorded signs of the existence of planets around them. For example, the atmosphere of some white dwarfs appears to be contaminated with rocky material. This suggests that the planets orbiting them, invisible to telescopes, repel comets and asteroids. Other white dwarfs periodically fade, suggesting that they are eclipsed by planets orbiting the stars. And in 2011, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope directly detected a potential planet near a white dwarf. However, the orbit of this planet is huge, the distance from its star is about 2500 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Closer planets, whose orbits are more similar to those of Jupiter and Saturn, have so far gone unnoticed.

Astronomer Susan Mullally of the Space Telescope Science Institute and her colleagues used JWST to study four nearby white dwarfs within 75 light-years of Earth. And near two of the white dwarfs, they were able to spot objects that could be planets. One of these objects is 1.3 times the mass of Jupiter and orbits its star in an orbit similar to that of Saturn. The other is 2.5 times heavier than Jupiter and has an orbit slightly larger than that of Neptune. According to Mullally, if the information is confirmed, it will be the first evidence that planets like Jupiter and Saturn can survive the evolution of their Sun into a white dwarf.

The researchers are not yet sure that the discovered objects are planets and not background galaxies. This has yet to be convincingly proven. However, the probability of error is estimated at 1/3000. Now the team of scientists needs to find evidence that the planet-like objects are associated with their stars. That is, they must be moving together in space.

To do this, astronomers need to spend more time at JWST. If they can prove their assumption, it will mean that JWST can observe many such planets. Since such planets are brighter than their stars, their atmospheres should be relatively easy to study to identify their similarities with the giant planets of the Solar System or to establish key differences from them.

Subscribe to OBOZ.UA channels on Telegram and Viber to keep up with the latest events.

Other News