What Will Happen To The Earth When The Sun Dies?

As far as existential threats that you have to push to the back of your mind just to get through the day go, the inevitable death of the sun in a scant few billion years has to take the wildly depressing cake. It calls to mind images that would make most men crumple and cause even the most calloused of the Russo Brothers' special effects team members to take a personal day to spend more time with their families.

But come on. How bad could things really get? The answer, folks, is bad. Consider what we know about the phases that a star like the sun goes through in its death throes. Once it starts running low on hydrogen to fuse, the sun's core will begin to collapse in on itself, unable to support its own mass.  That compression will cause it to get even hotter than it already is, and the release of energy will make the sun's surface increase in brightness and size, becoming what's called a "red giant." A couple of things will happen at this point: number one, Superman will lose all of his powers. Secondly, and comparatively insignificantly, the Earth will get vaporized.

According to the folks at Live Science, the sun will expand out far enough that it will consume Mercury, Venus, and Earth like Pac-Man swallowing so many white blips. The process will take about five million years, or a little over a hundred times as long as humans have been around. On the up side, by the time everything you've ever known or loved has been gobbled, the Earth will have already been uninhabitable for millenia, since the increased heat of the sun will have evaporated the oceans ages ago.

Look, in the long run, there isn't a lot of great news. The closest we can get to turning this frown upside down is that in 2018, NBC (who've collapsed a few stars in their own day) reported that once all is said and done, what used to be the Earth will become part of a planetary nebula, which is described as being "one of the prettiest objects in the night sky." That's roughly equivalent to your older brother strapping your favorite toy to a bottle rocket and then expecting you to be excited that there are fireworks, but hey. You take what you can get.