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What If The Sun Was To Go Out?
MadSci Network ^ | February 24, 1997 | Joseph Spitale, Grad student Planetary Science/Applied Math, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Posted on 12/11/2004 11:15:46 AM PST by SamAdams76

...The short answer to your question is that no one knows the answer. I have come across some interesting information, though, and I will try to give you my thoughts on the matter from a physicist's point of view, but you might also want to resubmit the question with my answer attached and see if you can get further input from a biologist.

First, let's consider how long the planet could support large land animals like ourselves. Just think about the temperature difference between night and day and it should be pretty clear that the atmosphere (at least the troposphere, where we live) cools quite rapidly by radiation. It should only be a matter of days before the surface temperature drops below freezing everywhere on the planet. In, fact in six months to a year, the temperature should drop to less than 150 Kelvin, half its current value. I would not expect any biological activity to remain at this temperature. However, there may be organisms which could survive in a suspended state if they were to freeze before they starved. That's something a biologist would have to comment on. So I would say that an upper bound for the survival of large land animals would be less than six months, just based on temperature. However, it should be much less than this since the food chain, which starts with sunlight (which plants use), would break down almost immediately.

What would happen with the oceans? Well, there's a tremendous amount of latent heat in the oceans, which would help to warm the atmosphere. However, once the surface of the ocean began to freeze, it would become more and more insulated by the cover of ice. Thus, it appears that the transfer of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere could be significant only in the early stages of the cooling. However, the insulating effect of the ice would allow the oceans to stay above freezing for quite a while, though once again, the food chain would break down radidly, and the supply of oxygen would be cut off.

Now, there is another energy source which is significant - geothermal heat. There are organisms which live on the seafloor near geothermal vents - fissures from which superheated water laden with various gases and nutrients are expelled. The question is - are these organisms dependent only on the nutrients and heat that they recieve from the vents, or are they connected to the rest of the food chain? There are many more qualified to answer this than I. I wouldn't be surprised if they were dependent on the oxygen generated by photosynthesis, and thus vulnerable.

I have also seen mention of organisms found in core samples from quite deep in the Earth's crust which may depend only on geothermal heat, but I don't know how credible this is.

Of course, it's possible that technology would allow a very small population of humans to survive, just as they might on a lunar base. However, if such a facility does not already exist, it is doubtful whether one could be constructed before the atmosphere froze out onto the ground, especially since it would probably take more people to construct it than it would be able to support. It might be possible to modify a bomb shelter to serve such a purpose, but it would need to be able to generate breathable air, and there would need to be a way of obtaining fuel. With no solar energy, you would need to use nuclear energy, fossil fuel, or geothernal energy.

In short, we wouldn't last long, but there may be organisms which could survive indefinitely, either by freezing before they starve, or because they don't depend on solar energy at all. I would definitely recommend submitting this to a biologist for further comment.


TOPICS: Unclassified
KEYWORDS: climatechange; solarenergy; sun
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I am not a grad student of Planetary Science like the author, but it is my uneducated opinion that there is no need to consult a biologist on this. If the sun was to go out, we would all be doomed in short order.
1 posted on 12/11/2004 11:15:47 AM PST by SamAdams76
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To: SamAdams76

I'd invest in flashlights and batteries.


2 posted on 12/11/2004 11:17:24 AM PST by Buck W. (How can anyone who works for a living vote democrat?)
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To: SamAdams76

That question was answered in the good Dr. Isaac Asimov's short story "Nightfall."


3 posted on 12/11/2004 11:17:40 AM PST by freedumb2003 (When does the Revolution start? I'm going for a bike ride for a while. Please fill me in later.)
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To: SamAdams76

Fortunately, if it does go out, we'll be blessed with 8 additional minutes of blissful ignorance before finding out.


4 posted on 12/11/2004 11:17:42 AM PST by Sloth (Al Franken is a racist.)
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To: SamAdams76

All we'd have to do is kick up the global warming machine the liberals say we control and everything would be OK.


5 posted on 12/11/2004 11:17:44 AM PST by flashbunny (Every thought that enters my head requires its own vanity thread.)
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To: SamAdams76
What If The Sun Was To Go Out?

Ah....it would get dark?

Can I have my PhD now please?

6 posted on 12/11/2004 11:17:49 AM PST by Heatseeker
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To: SamAdams76

I am not a physicist, but it's my uneducated opinion that the sun can't just "go out". I mean, it's a nuclear reaction, right? What would it take to stop the fusion process?


7 posted on 12/11/2004 11:18:24 AM PST by JenB (I will not turn into a snake. It doesn't help.)
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To: SamAdams76

Now explain to me again how global warming caused this scenario?


8 posted on 12/11/2004 11:19:47 AM PST by KamperKen
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To: SamAdams76

Hmmmmm think I saw a Twilight Zone episode with this as a premise


9 posted on 12/11/2004 11:20:21 AM PST by traderrob6
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To: SamAdams76

Serious snuggle weather.


10 posted on 12/11/2004 11:20:32 AM PST by NautiNurse
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To: SamAdams76
Someone has got waaaaaaaaay too much time on their hands.

While they're at it: "What happens if it starts raining green M&Ms tomorrow?"

11 posted on 12/11/2004 11:20:36 AM PST by BullDog108 (Know Your Enemy! http://bvml.org/webmaster/enemy.html)
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To: SamAdams76
What If The Sun Was To Go Out?

Which Sun? If one in Canopus or Orion's Belt were to go out, I'd note it then throw another log on the fire.

Oh, our Sun? Invest in hand warmers and fur-lined mukluks.

12 posted on 12/11/2004 11:20:43 AM PST by asgardshill ("We march by day and read Xenophon by night.")
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To: JenB
What would it take to stop the fusion process?

A really big fire hose?

13 posted on 12/11/2004 11:20:50 AM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: Buck W.
"I'd invest in flashlights and batteries."

And warm blankets.

14 posted on 12/11/2004 11:21:06 AM PST by Batrachian
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To: JenB

A million person march on DC with the support of Hollyweird politicos!


15 posted on 12/11/2004 11:21:37 AM PST by Young Werther
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To: SamAdams76

If the sun was to go out...it would be Bush's fault, for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.


16 posted on 12/11/2004 11:21:41 AM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: Young Werther

No nukes! No nukes!


17 posted on 12/11/2004 11:22:05 AM PST by JenB (I will not turn into a snake. It doesn't help.)
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To: JenB

The Tox Uthat would do it.

18 posted on 12/11/2004 11:23:04 AM PST by Sloth (Al Franken is a racist.)
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To: JenB

An extreeeeeemly large explosion!!!!


19 posted on 12/11/2004 11:23:27 AM PST by .45MAN ("God bless America and George W. Bush")
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To: SamAdams76

It will certainly be blamed on Bush.


20 posted on 12/11/2004 11:24:06 AM PST by granite (WE WON FAIR AND SQUARE, GET OVER IT DUMMIES!!!)
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To: .45MAN

But the sun already is an extreeeemly large explosion! That's the point! One doesn't stop an explosion, one waits for it to exhaust its materials. The sun's going to take a while to do that.


21 posted on 12/11/2004 11:24:27 AM PST by JenB (I will not turn into a snake. It doesn't help.)
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To: SamAdams76
"I am not a grad student of Planetary Science ... "

Nor I, but there are some things that are evident to all.

I suspect the good professor is on the dole from a public grant of some kind.

As far as caring about "other" life forms dying off? I care about as much as I do of the possible life forms that have come and gone since the universe began.




Is it cold in here, or is it me?

22 posted on 12/11/2004 11:25:34 AM PST by G.Mason (The replies by this poster are meant for self amusement only. Use at your own discretion.)
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To: SamAdams76

What if the sun WERE to go out??


23 posted on 12/11/2004 11:26:11 AM PST by agrarianlady
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To: SamAdams76

Paul McCartney would write a new song, "There Goes the Sun".


24 posted on 12/11/2004 11:26:42 AM PST by Ken H
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To: BullDog108
While they're at it: "What happens if it starts raining green M&Ms tomorrow?"

Dancing in the streets. Until someone slipped and broke something and then the mass suing of Mars Corporation would begin.

25 posted on 12/11/2004 11:26:52 AM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum europe vincendarum (Happy Hanukkah!))
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To: granite

Of course.. The sun is republican. It's not subsidized and no one has to pay for it....


26 posted on 12/11/2004 11:27:05 AM PST by .45MAN ("God bless America and George W. Bush")
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To: Sloth
The Tox Uthat would do it.

So would a sunkiller bomb.

Inshai Compact.
Historians' name for an interstellar government that was in power some 5000 years ago, a federation of approximately 36 hominid and non-hominid cultures. The Compact fell when a world of the Orion Congeries allegedly placed a sunkiller bomb into Sigma 1014 Orionis, homestar of Inshai. ("Spock's World" [Pocket TOS HC #1]).

27 posted on 12/11/2004 11:27:20 AM PST by asgardshill ("We march by day and read Xenophon by night.")
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To: SamAdams76

Women and minorities to suffer most.


28 posted on 12/11/2004 11:28:08 AM PST by Nick Danger (Want some wood?)
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To: JenB

I mean extreeeeeeeeemly large Like solar system large.....


29 posted on 12/11/2004 11:28:35 AM PST by .45MAN ("God bless America and George W. Bush")
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To: KamperKen

It's Bush's fault!


30 posted on 12/11/2004 11:29:31 AM PST by SittinYonder (Tancredo and I wanna know what you believe)
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To: SamAdams76

I'd give up on atkins and eat a oatmeal cookie !


31 posted on 12/11/2004 11:30:07 AM PST by Squantos (Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet. )
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To: SamAdams76

"Now, there is another energy source which is significant - geothermal heat"

Let us prepare to invade Iceland.


32 posted on 12/11/2004 11:30:35 AM PST by Rebelbase (Who is General Chat?)
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To: SamAdams76

having the sun go out still would not be enough to stop the Ohio recount.


33 posted on 12/11/2004 11:32:14 AM PST by Semper Paratus
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To: SamAdams76

If we could seek shelter inside a domed city, it might be interesting to watch the outside world freeze to zero kelvin. But then if the Sun were to go out, would it be a neutron star or a black hole, or would its mass just vanish?


34 posted on 12/11/2004 11:32:25 AM PST by eagle11
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To: SamAdams76

NUCLEAR ENERGY BUMP!


35 posted on 12/11/2004 11:35:13 AM PST by montag813
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To: SamAdams76

If it freezes, we could all keep warm by just having sex all day like in that episode of "Taxi".


36 posted on 12/11/2004 11:35:59 AM PST by montag813
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To: Ken H

LOL. But isn't _Here Comes The Sun_ a John Lennon song?!?


37 posted on 12/11/2004 11:36:19 AM PST by RatSlayer
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To: 4mycountry; asgardshill; Cloud William; Frank_Discussion; Monkey Face; Rastus; raybbr; Rebelbase; ..


Bye bye! :)


38 posted on 12/11/2004 11:38:05 AM PST by Tealc (Mail me if you want on or off my Jaffa, Kree! ping list)
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To: JenB
can't just "go out".

There was some cafeteria speculation a couple years ago that the sun has already gone out. It is dark inside and the surface is glowing from residual heat. Won't be long until we notice, maybe a few thousand years.

39 posted on 12/11/2004 11:39:19 AM PST by RightWhale (Destroy the dark; restore the light)
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To: SamAdams76

From my understanding, the sun will expand beyond the orbit of Mars and then shrink. Forget about blankets. Invest in fire retardant longjohns.

APf


40 posted on 12/11/2004 11:41:21 AM PST by APFel (Humanity has a poor track record of predicting its own future.)
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To: JenB

It is estimated the sun has about 4 billion more years of life left in it. Of course the sun can't just go out, but this was a hypothetical question: What if? If, by some strange quirk of fate, it went out, we would all die. End of story.


41 posted on 12/11/2004 11:41:23 AM PST by calex59
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To: SamAdams76

Note to self: Sell all "Coppertone" stock immediately!


42 posted on 12/11/2004 11:42:08 AM PST by GreenHornet
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To: SamAdams76
Our sun will eventually go out, but not before swelling to become a Red Giant with a diameter sufficient to engulf the earth.

We'll be burnt to a crisp and presumably become part of the Sun's inner core, although I suppose we could simply be vaporized first.

Either way, freezing to death isn't in the future cards for us.

43 posted on 12/11/2004 11:42:58 AM PST by Dog Gone
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To: JenB

Exactly, lol! Just what I was thinking. In order for nuclear fusion to stop at the Sun's core, someone would have to turn off gravity in the universe, or the Sun would have to collide with another star, or something equally catastrophic, in all of which cases we'd have a lot more to worry about than getting cold and starving!


44 posted on 12/11/2004 11:43:17 AM PST by LibWhacker (Sorry for any un-PCness in my post)
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To: SamAdams76

The bright side is we won't have to hear from the libs about global warming anymore - then again they don't give up easily.


45 posted on 12/11/2004 11:44:28 AM PST by Kenny500c
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To: Ken H
Paul McCartney would write a new song, "There Goes the Sun".

****************

Too funny by far. ;)

46 posted on 12/11/2004 11:45:01 AM PST by trisham
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To: JenB

It's one of those unlikely "what if" things people (some with too much time on their hands) like to ponder. Like my question: What if you cored the earth from pole to pole, then jumped in the hole - what would happen?


47 posted on 12/11/2004 11:45:09 AM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: JenB; All

Well, for someone who writes a 'science' blog, this guy is pretty ignorant.

The fate of our sun is well know to anyone who has taken an astronomy 101 course.

A billion or so years from now, the hydrogen fusion reaction in the sun will no longer be able to support the weight of the core.

At that point the core, which will be mostly helium at that point, will collapse until it becomes so dense that a helium fusion reaction begins.

The sun will then swell up into a large red start who's size will be so large that it will reach to about the orbit of Mars.

IOW, the Earth is going to get fried and swallowed up before the Sun finally burns out. I suggect investing in sun screen, not winter clothing.


48 posted on 12/11/2004 11:45:42 AM PST by RatSlayer
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To: RightWhale; JenB; SamAdams76
Geeezzzz:

Everyone needs to read this book:

___________________________________________

100 Billion Suns: The Birth, Life, and Death of the Stars
by Rudolf Kippenhahn "The earth revolves around the sun at a rate of 30 kilometers per second in an almost circular orbit measuring 300 million kilometers in diameter..." 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Review
An admirable introduction to the difficult subject of stellar evolution accurately aimed at the general reader.

Product Description:
How are the nuclear power plants we call "stars" formed? Where do they get their energy and how do they die--and what does this suggest about the future of the universe? One of the most popular books written on astrophysics, 100 Billion Suns provides an exhilarating and authoritative life history of the stars.

49 posted on 12/11/2004 11:45:43 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (A Proud member of Free Republic ~~The New Face of the Fourth Estate since 1996.)
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To: Dog Gone

Boy, I hope the Earth cracks in half before that. It sounds terrible.

NOW what am I going to do....oh that's right....eat !!!!!!


50 posted on 12/11/2004 11:47:13 AM PST by PoorMuttly ("The right of the People to be Muttly shall not be infringed,")
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