The sun will slowly expand into a red giant, pushing the Earth farther out into space, but not far enough. Our home planet will be snagged by the sun's outer atmosphere, gradually plunging to its doom inside the fiery stellar furnace.
"The drag caused by this low-density gas is enough to cause the Earth to drift inwards, and finally to be captured and vaporized by the sun," explains astronomer Robert Smith of the University of Sussex in southern England.It turns out that we only have around a billion years of life left, which is sobering when you think that life on the earth has been around for 3.6 billion years. That fact alone seems to have built in a bit of immediacy to the whole picture. In fact, the process might be slowed down:
[Smith] cites a recent study emanating from the University of California, Santa Cruz. It proposes taming an asteroid to swing by the Earth every few thousand years, slowly nudging the Earth into higher solar orbit, enough to outpace the sun's own outward growth.
Or we could just get on the stick and figure out a way of getting out there. Colonizing Mars clearly won't work in the long run.
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