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Can anyone here please tell me about the sun dying?

  1. Feb 28, 2007 #1

    new to this forum...and a total science noob who comes to you seeking knowledge...


    Anyway - i recently saw the new danny boyle movie 'sunshine' - the story is about the sun dying and a rescue team who's on a mission to save the sun by reigniting it.

    My question is?

    - is it actually possible that the sun will die?
    - and if so, what are the possible reasons for it?

    simple explanations please - i'm not a scientist


    This is the trailer by the way
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2007 #2

    D H

    Staff: Mentor

    The Sun will die when it completely runs out of fuel. Before that, it will run out of hydrogen and switch to helium fusion. This will make it become a red giant that may well engulf the Earth. The Sun is too small to progress beyond burning helium. It will eventually shrink to a white dwarf.

    Don't fret about this too much, though. It won't happen for a long, long time. The Milky Way will collide with Andromeda before our sun goes into the red giant phase. That will destroy not only our solar system but big chunks of the galaxy. Time frame for these events: Milky Way/Andromeda collision in 3 billion years, sun becomes a red giant in 4-5 billion years.

    Regarding the movie: Awful scientific concept. Period.
  4. Feb 28, 2007 #3
    thanks for that DH..Hope you don;t mind me asking you some more questions...humour me:wink:

    presumably there's a point for us here on earth, between where we are now and the sun totally dying out, where the start of it's demise will affect us. An ice age of some sort?

    Do you have any idea of what degree of fluctuation in the sun's current behaviour would be required right now for something like that to happen?

    <sorry - i know my grasp on the actual science is slender :frown: >
  5. Feb 28, 2007 #4
    actually - i just found this article on the sunshine site about the science in the movie


    apparently there is some decent scientific for the situation in the movie
  6. Feb 28, 2007 #5
    That seems to go against everything I've read concerning our collision with Andromeda. Namely that the VAST majority of the stars in our galaxy will not be "destroyed" by the event... perhaps only a few near the center of the galaxy will be in any real danger. Our solar system is far enough away from the center that this is not be a concern for us. Of course, correct me if I'm wrong.
  7. Feb 28, 2007 #6
    interesting - are you formally trained in this stuff?
    Do you have any idiot-proof further reading in this direction?

    would much appreciate it :rolleyes:
  8. Feb 28, 2007 #7
    No, I'm not formally trained... unless you count 1 semester of astronomy in college :)
    Well, here's an very introductory level NASA article:

    To quote:
    "there is very little chance of stars from the Andromeda galaxy hitting the Sun or the Earth. Even though the galaxies pass clear through each other, she says, stars in a galaxy are spaced very far apart. "

    Here is a good one which includes a computer simulation of the collision
  9. Feb 28, 2007 #8

    D H

    Staff: Mentor

    A collision is extremely unlikely. However, all it takes to destroy life on Earth is to perturb the orbit a bit.
  10. Feb 28, 2007 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    :rofl: No, this is nonsense. A bomb made of dark matter and uranium that re-ignites the sun to stop a Q Ball. :rofl: :rolleyes:

    I was hoping someone here would address the sun dying for you.
  11. Mar 1, 2007 #10
    hehehe....i see. no solar experts then? damn
  12. Mar 1, 2007 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    ??? These aren't hard questions, questura, and you got good responses. There aren't a whole lot of people in the world with the profession of 'sun studier'.
  13. Mar 1, 2007 #12
    oh for sure...sorry, didn't mean to sound ungrateful :!!)

    It's just quite surprising how militant and definite people seem to be about the science involved, but then everyone keeps producing (what looks to me like) compelling evidence to back up what they're saying.
    See, Evo says that stuff is "nonsense", but i just looked up the guy who was the science consultant on Sunshine and he looks like he knows what he's talking about > http://www.apolloschildren.com/brian/
  14. Mar 1, 2007 #13


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    I'm not sure what the problem is - his credentials look fine, but the movie is a work of fiction. It isn't any more meaningful than the rediculously silly movies "The Core" and "The Day after Tomorrow". The fact that they are employing a real scientist as a consultant should not be taken to imply that he endorses the science behind the movie.
  15. Mar 1, 2007 #14


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    Staff: Mentor

    Evo is quite correct, and Russ pointed out that appropriate/good answers were given. D H's original answer is spot on.





    from http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~frogel/Ast161/outline161_a00_part1.html - near bottom in section "Stars"


    The Sun - http://jura.astro.utoledo.edu/~bjorkman/astr1010/chap10_1.pdf


    This might be of interest - Age determinations of main-sequence stars: combining different methods
    https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/1887/7326/1/A&A_348_897_909.pdf (best to use 'save target as')

    At the moment, mankind cannot produce any device which would have any significant impact on the sun! It wouldn't even get near enough!
  16. Mar 1, 2007 #15


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    Gold Member

    The story, like almost all pop sci-fi, is total fiction topped with sprinkles of scientific terminology. Star Trek has a science consultant too, but that doesn't mean the stories are rooted in science.
  17. Mar 8, 2007 #16
    Below is a link to a web page created by Helmut Schattl of the Max Planck Institute regarding the future of our sun-


    There's a 7 minute video which is informative (this is a bit tricky to d/l. Right click on "The Future of Our Sun" and 'save target as'. In the 'file name' box, replace the second suffix .avi with .bz2 so the file name reads sun.avi.bz2, then in the 'save as type' box, change to 'all files', then save the file to your computer. Once saved, the zipped file can be opened with bzip2 or winRAR software. Alternatively, the video is posted on YouTube under the same title).

  18. Mar 8, 2007 #17


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    Great. Just great.

    Our sun is in the prime of middle age. Just when everything is going along tickety-boo - BLAM - it's going to be outplaced by some younger, brighter, bluer star that's fresh out of a stellar nursery and all about the 'New Physics' and everything. Our Sun will be adrift in a world it was not made for. It will have to reinvent itself, start at the bottom again (probably won't even have any planet supervision responsibilites, and even have to clean its own stellar neighbourhood of dust and gas). And after all that, it will surely have to abandon its dream of retiring as a nova or even a supergiant, basking in the warm tropical heat. More likely, it will work right till its death and end up a shriveled, burnt out white dwarf, dying.
    In the darkess.

    What? Did I say that out loud?
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2007
  19. Mar 9, 2007 #18
    oh nice one steve..thanks very much. I'll take a look at this this evening

  20. Mar 12, 2007 #19
  21. Mar 14, 2007 #20

    LOL, nice one
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