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    Will the Sun eat Mercury, Venus and Earth?

    Will the Sun eat Mercury, Venus and Earth?

    Will the Sun eat Mercury, Venus and Earth?
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Published)

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    As the Sun progresses in its lifecycle, it is expected to slowly grow large as the hydrogen fuel runs out in its core, leading to the slow spiral that will result in the Sun becoming a white dwarf.

    Suppose somehow time travel is invented and a curious spirit travelled nearly 8 billion years into the future to take a look at our solar system. They’d be met with unfamiliar surroundings. First of all, the Sun would have been replaced by a massive red behemoth of intense light and heat. Secondly, they’d find the closest planets to the Sun, Mercury and Venus missing. Finally, they’d see that Earth is a charred husk that’s about to be slowly engulfed by the Sun as well.
    While this sounds like a fascinating premise for a science fiction novel, this is what’s in store for the solar system. While the Sun is comfortably in its middle age right now, at 4.57 billion years of age, as our star reaches its death, it’ll undergo drastic changes.
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    The Sun will transform into a red giant and grow large enough to consume the inner terrestrial planets. As the Sun progresses in its lifecycle, it is expected to slowly grow large as the hydrogen fuel runs out in its core, leading to the slow spiral that will result in the Sun becoming a white dwarf. The red giant phase of the class of stars the size of the Sun sees the stars slowly burn helium into carbon after running out of hydrogen and gaining size.
    Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz recently found that the interaction between the envelope of hot gas at the edges of a red giant can have a variety of outcomes when it surrounds planets or brown dwarfs, which are the last stage remains of medium-sized stars.
    But what exactly happens when the Sun consumes the planets is poorly known, even though this is a common occurrence in the cosmos. The staggering difference in scale between planets and their stars leads to issues with modelling.
    “Evolved stars can be hundreds or even thousands of times larger than their planets, and this disparity of scales makes it difficult to perform simulations that accurately model the physical processes occurring at each scale,” said Ricardo Yarza, the lead author of the study.
    One of the most common outcomes may be that the envelopment of planetary objects fuels the star, increasing their luminosity for millennia to come. But if the object is large enough, think at least 100 times the size of the planet Jupiter, then it may also be ejected from the stellar envelope due to drag forces.
    “As the planet travels inside the star, drag forces transfer energy from the planet to the star, and the stellar envelope can become unbound if the transferred energy exceeds its binding energy,” Yarza said.
     
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