In about five billion years, the Sun will eat Planet Earth.
Well, not exactly eat. It’s not going to pull up a chair, cook some fava beans and pop open a bottle of chianti or anything. But it will roast us over an open fire, so to speak.
While we know the Sun will eventually become a red giant and devour our solar system’s inner planets, however, we’ve never actually found evidence of the same happening to other planets. Until now.
Scientists have detected the (non)existence of a “missing planet” around red giant BD+48 740. They analyzed the star’s chemical composition and found it to contain a high amount of lithium, left over from when the star “digested” the planet. They also observed the “eccentric orbit” of the system’s surviving planet, which they believe was caused by energy released as the missing planet fell to its fiery doom.
Let that sink in, because like I said, that’s us in about five billion years.
Our star, at the moment, is a relatively safe (haha) yellow dwarf. Once its hydrogen runs out, though, it’ll change into a red giant, which will cause it to heat up and expand, potentially beyond Earth’s orbit (about 250 times its current radius). At that point, even if we’re not fully eaten up, we’ll be burnt to a crispy crisp, with an extra side of crispness.
Mark your calendars.
Image credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO.