How did it all start?
The sun is the star at the center of the solar system - a sphere of hot plasma that is
But experts say that in about five billion years, the star will run out of energy and radically change the solar system.
Researchers believe that when the sun begins to rise sharply, its outer layers will expand until the star engulfs the planets, including the Earth.
But the chief investigator of NASA's Newhorizons, PhD Alan Stern discovered that while it can kill any life on Earth, it can also create habitable worlds in the coldest corners of space.
How will the Sun and Earth die?
Now the Sun is a very stable star withhydrogen, which undergoes nuclear fusion, turning into helium and energy. The energy leaking from the core to the upper layers of the star maintains a stable state of the Sun for more than four billion years.
But over time, helium accumulates in the core.Its reactions require more pressure and higher temperature, so now helium is inert. It just sits in the core, slowly heating up. In about 6 billion years, the Sun will run out of hydrogen in its core, it will shrink and heat up to extreme temperatures. Eventually, after a few hundred million years, conditions in the Sun's core will become so dire that helium will begin to melt into carbon and oxygen. They will accumulate in the core, generating enormous amounts of energy.
All this takes place deep in the core of the Sun.The outer layers react slowly to this, but they react. When the fusion of the hydrogen envelope begins, the outer layers swell, turning the Sun into a red giant.
The size of the Sun is now (1.4 million km)compared to when it became a red giant about 7 billion years later. 1 a.u. - this is the distance from the Earth to the Sun now, 150 million km. Credit: Una Räisänen.
When the Sun becomes a red giant, it becomeslarge enough to absorb Mercury and Venus. They will literally exist inside the Sun for some time. Ultimately, these planets will completely evaporate.
The fate of the Earth is not so clear.The subatomic particle wind, like the solar wind is now, will become much denser. The sun will lose enough mass to cause its gravity to weaken, which means that the orbits of the planets will expand. The problem is that the Earth is pretty much on the border separating its absorption by the red giant Sun and far enough to avoid this fate. It depends on detailed physics, for example how much mass the Sun will lose. In any case, the conditions on the planet will become unbearable.
Where do earthlings escape?
Early 2020 PhD Alan Stern, ScientistNASA, best known as the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to study Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, detailed the fate of the Earth after the Sun becomes a red giant.
"At the end of the Sun's life - in the phase of red giants - the territory of the Kuiper belt will become metaphorical Miami Beach."
Dr. Stern believes that any remaining peoplemay find refuge on Pluto and other distant dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune filled with icy space rocks. As the Sun expands, conditions in these worlds will change dramatically and become more suitable.
Today dwarf planets like Plutocontain a lot of water ice and complex organic materials, and some of them have oceans under the surface. But the surface temperature of these extraterrestrial bodies is hundreds of degrees below zero.
However, when the Sun becomes a red giant, Pluto's surface temperature will be about the same as the average temperatures on the Earth's surface now.
Back in a study published in the journalAstrobiology in 2003, Stern assessed the prospects for life in the outer solar system after the star entered its final stage of life. And already three years later, he headed the command of the interplanetary space mission. The probe, sent to Pluto as part of the New Frontiers program, aims to deepen our understanding of the solar system.
What's on the edge of the solar system?
Behind the gas giant Neptune is the regionspace filled with ice bodies. Known as the Kuiper Belt, this cold space contains trillions of objects - remnants of the early solar system.
The Kuiper Belt is shown beyond the orbit of Neptune. One of its inhabitants is Eris, which is in a highly inclined elliptical orbit. (Image courtesy of NASA)
In 1943, astronomer Kenneth Edgeworth suggestedthat comets and larger bodies could exist outside Neptune. And in 1951, astronomer Gerard Kuiper predicted the existence of a belt of icy objects at the far edge of the solar system. Today the rings predicted by this pair are known as the Kuiper belt or Edgeworth-Kuiper belt.
Despite its enormous size, the Kuiper beltwas not discovered until 1992 by astronomers Dave Jewitt and Jane Luu. According to NASA, the pair of scientists "have been persistently scanning the sky for faint objects beyond the orbit of Neptune" since 1987, which has been cataloged as "1992 QB1"
Since then, astronomers have found severalintriguing Kuiper belt objects and potential planets in the region. NASA's New Horizons mission continues to uncover previously hidden planets and objects, helping scientists learn more about this unique relic of the solar system.
What is the Kuiper Belt?
Like the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt isa region left over from the early history of the solar system. Like the asteroid belt, it was also formed by a giant planet, although it is more of a thick disc (like a donut) than a thin belt.
The artist's painting depicts a distantthe dwarf planet Eris in the distance with its moon Dysmonia in the foreground. Both call the Kuiper belt "home." New observations have shown that Eris is smaller than previously thought and nearly the same size as Pluto.
(Image: © ESO / L. Calçada)
When the solar system was formed, a largesome of the gas, dust and rocks come together to form the sun and planets. Then the planets carried most of the remaining debris to the Sun or outside the Solar System. But objects at the edge of the solar system were far enough away to escape the gravitational pull of much larger planets like Jupiter, and so they managed to stay in place as they slowly orbited the sun. The Kuiper Belt and its compatriot, the more distant and spherical Oort Cloud, contain remnants left over from the beginning of the creation of the solar system, can provide valuable information about its birth.
According to the Nice model - one of the proposedmodels of the formation of the solar system - the Kuiper belt could have formed closer to the Sun, near the place where Neptune is now rotating. In this model, the planets participated in an intricate dance in which Neptune and Uranus switched places and moved outward, away from the Sun. As the planets moved away from the Sun, their gravity could carry away many Kuiper belt objects, pulling tiny objects in front as the ice giants migrated. As a result, many Kuiper belt objects have been moved from the region in which they were created to the colder part of the solar system.
Most populous part of the Kuiper beltis 42-48 times larger than the Earth from the Sun. The orbit of objects in this area remains largely stable, although sometimes the course of some objects changes slightly when they drift too close to Neptune.
Scientists have calculated that thousands of bodies with a diameter of more than100 km (62 mi) orbits the Sun within this belt, along with trillions of smaller objects, many of which are short-period comets. The region also has several dwarf planets - circular worlds too large to be considered asteroids but too small to be considered planets.
Kuiper Belt Objects
Pluto - the largest known ice dwarfplanets. Pluto was the first real Kuiper belt objects (KBO) observed, although scientists at the time did not recognize it as such until other KBOs were discovered. When Juitt and Luu discovered the Kuiper Belt, astronomers soon saw that the area beyond Neptune was full of icy rocks and tiny worlds.
Sedna - the most massive and second largest knownA dwarf planet in our solar system, KBO about three-quarters the size of Pluto, was discovered in 2004. It is so far from the Sun that it takes about 10,500 years to complete one revolution. Sedna is about 1,770 km wide and revolves around the Sun in an eccentric orbit ranging from 12.9 to 135 billion km.
In July 2005, astronomers discovered Eridu, BWC, which is slightly smaller than Pluto.Eris revolves around the Sun about once every 580 years, traveling nearly 100 times farther from the Sun than Earth. His discovery showed some astronomers the problem of classifying Pluto as a full-blown planet. According to the 2006 definition of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the planet must be large enough to clear the area of debris. Pluto and Eris, surrounded by the Kuiper belt, clearly failed to do this. As a result, Pluto, Eris and the largest asteroid Ceres were reclassified as dwarf planets by the IAU in 2006. Two more dwarf planets Haumea and Makemake, were discovered in the Kuiper belt in 2008.
Haumea (780 km) is the fastest rotating dwarf planet with a ring around it. Makemake (715 km) is probably a dwarf planet with its own satellite.
Astronomers are now redefining Haumea's status asdwarf planet. In 2017, when the object passed between the Earth and a bright star, scientists realized that it was more elongated than round. According to the IAS definition, circumference is one of the criteria for a dwarf planet. The elongated shape of Haumea may have been the result of its rapid rotation; a day at the facility lasts only about four hours.
The Kuiper Belt is indeed a boundary in space - a place that scientists are just starting to explore. Perhaps in billions of years it will become a new home for earthlings.
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The Nice model is a scenario for the dynamic development of the solar system. Its development was started at the Observatory of the Côte d'Azur in Nice, France.