The Impact of Solar Mass Loss on Earth's Orbit

In summary, the mass of the sun changes due to nuclear fusion, where hydrogen atoms transform into helium and release energy. This results in a gradual decrease in mass, estimated to be about 4 million tons per second. While the sun's mass primarily decreases, it can also experience increases when absorbing matter from other celestial bodies. These changes in mass directly impact the sun's lifespan, as it becomes denser and hotter, eventually leading to its end as a red giant. While the sun's changing mass does not directly affect Earth, it can impact the amount of energy and radiation reaching our planet, potentially affecting climate. However, the effects of these changes are still being studied.
  • #1

Ian

88
1
If the sun is converting matter to energy it must be losing mass at roughly one Earth mass per 43 million years (calculated from the solar constant).

How would the loss of solar mass affect the Earth's orbit?
 
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  • #2
The sun also loses mass via the solar wind. This is presently about about 30% of mass loss due to radiation, but was significantly greater in the young sun. The combined effect is currently about 9e-14 solar masses per year. The orbital radius increases in proportion to the solar mass loss; the period increases at twice this rate.
 

1. What causes the mass of the sun to change?

The mass of the sun changes due to the constant fusion of hydrogen atoms in its core, which transforms into helium and releases energy. This process is known as nuclear fusion and it is responsible for the sun's energy output and gradual decrease in mass.

2. How much does the sun's mass change?

The sun's mass is estimated to decrease by about 4 million tons per second due to fusion reactions. This may seem like a significant amount, but in comparison to the sun's overall mass of approximately 2 nonillion tons, it is a very small change.

3. Can the mass of the sun ever increase?

While the sun's mass is primarily decreasing due to nuclear fusion, it is possible for it to experience an increase in mass. This can occur when the sun absorbs matter from other celestial bodies, such as when it captures comets or absorbs material from a nearby star.

4. How does the sun's changing mass affect its lifespan?

The sun's mass is directly related to its energy output and therefore, its lifespan. As the sun's mass decreases, its core becomes denser and hotter, causing it to expand and become a red giant. This expansion will eventually lead to the end of the sun's life as it runs out of fuel for fusion.

5. Can changes in the sun's mass impact Earth?

While the sun's changing mass does not have a direct impact on Earth, it does affect the amount of energy and radiation that reaches our planet. A decrease in the sun's mass could result in a decrease in solar energy, potentially leading to a cooler climate. However, the effects of the sun's mass changes on Earth's climate are very complex and still being studied by scientists.

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