If your elementary-school science teacher terrified you with stories of the sun colliding with the Earth in a grand explosion that would wipe out all life, a new study might help ease those fears.
According to research published in Astrobiology journal, it should be about 3 billion years before the sun grows so hot that the Earth becomes uninhabitable, indicating many lifetimes left in the “Goldilocks” zone enjoying a comfortable climate (man-made weather changes notwithstanding).
"If we are still around, and the optimist in me likes to think we would be, I hope we'd be away from the Earth, perhaps on Mars, or spread out in a huge galactic family across the Milky Way," said Andrew Rushby, planet-habitability PhD candidate at the University of East Anglia.
If that fails to happen though, our species, along with the rest, will likely burn from the sun’s rays. According to Rushby, the sun "will get progressively hotter and there's nothing we can do about it."
Rushby and other scientists are studying the factors that allow life on Earth, such as distance from the nearest star. They have identified more than 1,000 planets in other solar systems that have the potential to support human life, any of which may already house intelligent creatures.
Said Rushby, "The models can help us identify planets with similar habitable lifetimes to Earth and we want to pass these on to other astronomers and astrobiologists. These planets have been around and habitable for around the same amount of time as we have, so they become more promising candidates. There's no point looking for intelligent life on a planet that has not been habitable for very long."
Although Keplar is a well-known example of a planet with life potential, those orbiting smaller red stars can maintain a comfortable climate far longer, as red stars heat up relatively slowly. The planet Gliese, for example, orbits a red dwarf and could remain habitable for up to 55 billion years.
If only we can keep our own planet intact, perhaps we’ll make it there someday.