When the Sun Dies, Earth Might Not

Just-discovered planet survived; so there's hope for the old globe
By Kate Schwartz,  Newser User
Posted Sep 13, 2007 3:32 AM CDT
Solar Eruption   (Getty Images)
camera-icon View 4 more images

(Newser) – When the Sun begins to kick out in some 5 billion years, it might not take Earth with it, reports the New York Times. Scientists are more optimistic since discovering a planet that survived a similar situation. A lack of hydrogen fuel is expected to cause the Sun to expand 100-fold into a "red giant," enveloping Mercury and Venus and wiping out human life.

But the planet itself could endure. The just-discovered planet survived its own red giant, even though it was as close as the Earth is to the Sun. The findings hold hope for Earth, even though "stellar evolution can be a wild ride," cautioned one researcher.  A particularly dangerous time for Earth will occur at the end of the red giant phase when the Sun’s helium ignites.