, Astronomers Still Don’t Know What It Will Look Like When The Sun Dies, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Astronomers Still Don’t Know What It Will Look Like When The Sun Dies

, Astronomers Still Don’t Know What It Will Look Like When The Sun Dies, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Around 7 billion years from now, our Sun’s life will end.

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Becoming a red giant, it eventually exhausts its core fuel.

Gravitation overcomes the decreased radiation, expelling the tenuous outer layers.

The hot, contracting interior — forming a white dwarf — ionizes and illuminates the ejecta.

These short-lived planetary nebulae shine for only tens of thousands of years before fading away.

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All stars born with 40%-to-800% the Sun’s mass experience similar fates.

Only ~3000 planetary nebulae exist among the Milky Way’s ~400 billion stars.

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And yet, there’s a tremendous mystery surrounding them.

Somehow, 80% of them show evidence of directionality.

Many are bipolar nebulae, with two opposing lobes of ejecta.

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Others display spiral structures within them.

Still others are sculpted with odd, irregular shapes.

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Merely 20% of planetary nebulae appear spherically symmetric: expected for singlet, Sun-like stars.

This is puzzling: 50% of all stars are singlets like our Sun.

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Why, then, are only 20% of planetary nebulae spherically symmetric?

Perhaps large planets also carve irregular shapes.

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Perhaps magnetic fields cause asymmetrical nebulae around singlet stars.

Or perhaps the more massive stars, shorter-lived and rapidly spinning, bias our statistics.

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Despite our knowledge, we still cannot predict the Sun’s eventual nebular structure.

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Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.

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