The end is coming, and we even know when: In 5 billion years, the sun, our wholesome yellow harbinger of energy, is going to swell into a red giant and consume most of the inner planets of the solar system.
It will also wreak gravitational and radioactive havoc on the outer planets and moons sitting in the farther reaches of the neighborhood.
We’ll all be long dead before then, of course. But we also just got a good preview of what it might look like: a new set of telescopic images recently captured another red star that once possessed the same starting mass as the sun but has now ballooned in its old age. This star’s radius is now twice the length of the current distance between the Earth and the sun. And that staggering notion is also what we can expect from our own sun in the very distant future.
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