Skip to comments.What If The Sun Was To Go Out?
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.
I'd invest in flashlights and batteries.
That question was answered in the good Dr. Isaac Asimov's short story "Nightfall."
Fortunately, if it does go out, we'll be blessed with 8 additional minutes of blissful ignorance before finding out.
All we'd have to do is kick up the global warming machine the liberals say we control and everything would be OK.
Ah....it would get dark?
Can I have my PhD now please?
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?
Now explain to me again how global warming caused this scenario?
Hmmmmm think I saw a Twilight Zone episode with this as a premise
Serious snuggle weather.
While they're at it: "What happens if it starts raining green M&Ms tomorrow?"
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.
A really big fire hose?
And warm blankets.
A million person march on DC with the support of Hollyweird politicos!
If the sun was to go out...it would be Bush's fault, for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.
No nukes! No nukes!
The Tox Uthat would do it.
An extreeeeeemly large explosion!!!!
It will certainly be blamed on Bush.
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.
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?
What if the sun WERE to go out??
Paul McCartney would write a new song, "There Goes the Sun".
Dancing in the streets. Until someone slipped and broke something and then the mass suing of Mars Corporation would begin.
Of course.. The sun is republican. It's not subsidized and no one has to pay for it....
So would a sunkiller bomb.
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]).
Women and minorities to suffer most.
I mean extreeeeeeeeemly large Like solar system large.....
It's Bush's fault!
I'd give up on atkins and eat a oatmeal cookie !
"Now, there is another energy source which is significant - geothermal heat"
Let us prepare to invade Iceland.
having the sun go out still would not be enough to stop the Ohio recount.
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?
NUCLEAR ENERGY BUMP!
If it freezes, we could all keep warm by just having sex all day like in that episode of "Taxi".
LOL. But isn't _Here Comes The Sun_ a John Lennon song?!?
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.
From my understanding, the sun will expand beyond the orbit of Mars and then shrink. Forget about blankets. Invest in fire retardant longjohns.
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.
Note to self: Sell all "Coppertone" stock immediately!
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.
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!
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.
Too funny by far. ;)
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?
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.
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..."
An admirable introduction to the difficult subject of stellar evolution accurately aimed at the general reader.
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.
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 !!!!!!