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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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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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