The doubt about Earth’s future once the Sun ceases to exist is a perpetually disturbing thought. Scientists have already accepted that the Sun will eventually die. This will take place in about 5 billion years. However, what might happen next was somewhat blurry; that has now changed.
Albert Zijlstra, professor, School of Physics and Astronomy, along with a group of astronomers, has predicted that the sun will end up as a ring of interstellar gas and dust (luminous in nature), a phenomenon known as the planetary nebula. The planetary nebula indicates the culmination of most stars’ active lives. It charts out the star’s journey from a red giant to a degenerate white dwarf. Earlier, since the Earth’s sun seemed to have lesser mass than that required to create a conspicuous planetary nebula, scientists were uncertain if our galaxy would end in the same manner.
To get better clarity on the issue, the team created a new data-model which is capable of predicting the lifecycle of stars. This model was then used for predicting the luminosity (brightness) of the ejected envelope for a variety of stars in terms of masses and ages.
As explained by professor Zijlstra, a star ejects an envelope on dying. This envelope primarily consists of dust and gas and contains up to half of the star’s mass. This gives an idea about the star’s core, which by this point in the star’s life, is running out of fuel. The core then turns off and the star dies. Then the hot core causes the envelope to shine brightly for a period of about 10,000 years (brief period in astronomy). Thus the planetary nebulae are visible and can be seen from very large distances of about millions of light years.