The sun’s fi­nal light show

The Week (US) - - 20 News -

Sci­en­tists have long known how our sun will die: Some 5 bil­lion years from now, it will burn its last sup­ply of hy­dro­gen, swell into a red gi­ant, and swal­low Mer­cury and Venus be­fore col­laps­ing. What will hap­pen af­ter that col­lapse, how­ever, has not been so clear. Many thought the sun would shrink down to a dim com­pacted core— a white dwarf—but a new study ar­gues it will leave a far brighter legacy. Af­ter form­ing a red gi­ant, re­searchers say, the sun will shed half its mass as its outer lay­ers are blasted off into space. The re­main­ing core will then heat up far quicker than pre­vi­ous stud­ies have sug­gested, ra­di­at­ing ul­travi­o­let light and X-rays that will hit the ejected gas and dust, turn­ing them into a ring of brightly glow­ing plasma that will shine for some 10,000 years. “If you lived in the An­dromeda galaxy, 2 mil­lion light-years away,” study co-au­thor Al­bert Zi­jl­stra tells The­, “you’d still be able to see it.” You won’t be able to watch the light show from Earth: As the sun ages, it will grow ever brighter, and in the next

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