Sun in x-ray

Researchers Suggest Earth is Headed into becoming a World of Flames

Sun in x-ray
Leigh Goessl's image for:
"Researchers Suggest Earth is Headed into becoming a World of Flames"
Caption: Sun in x-ray
Image by: NASA
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A new study suggests the Earth will eventually end. Fortunately, it won't happen for some time. The study, conducted by Andrew Rushby, of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, along with colleagues Mark Claire, Hugh Osborne and Andrew Watson, projects the end of time as we know it will occur in about 1.5 billion to 2.25 billion years.

This, of course, being no other massive disaster, such as a massive asteroid or a nuclear war, crushes the Earth prior to this time.

Removing any doomsday scenarios, notes Live Science, according to the authors, eventually Earth will become uninhabitable.

How will the end of Earth happen?

The study suggests the Earth will eventually shift out of its habitable zone. This zone, which can support life, is often referred to as a "goldilocks zone". Basically, it means a planet can sustain life, and there is presence, or possibility of presence, of water.

What Rushby projects, is the Earth will drift closer to the sun. It is suggested this will occur as the sun depletes its supply of hydrogen fuel and begins swallowing up Mercury and Venus. The Earth's oceans would evaporate during this scenario as the solar system changes.

Earth will eventually end up in what is described as the "hot zone". It would have long lost its capabilities to sustain life once it reached this point.

"Of course conditions for humans and other complex life will become impossible much sooner – and this is being accelerated by anthropogenic climate change. Humans would be in trouble with even a small increase in temperature, and near the end only microbes in niche environments would be able to endure the heat," according to Rushby in a statement about the study.

Focus of study is life on other planets

Despite the dismal projection of Earth that Rusby and the team provide, the study's main focus is actually on something a bit more positive. Earthlings have long been fascinated with the idea of life on other planets. While we're not there yet, as technology progresses, the possibilities of learning "what's out there" becomes more realistic.

Researchers of this study say their main concern was to find life on other planets and as Live Science noted, "the evolution of complex life on Earth suggests the process requires a lot of time." Scientists wanted to see how much time and looked at several different planets' habitable life time.

"We had insects 400 million years ago, dinosaurs 300 million years ago and flowering plants 130 million years ago," Rushby, the lead researcher of the study, said in a statement."Anatomically modern humans have only been around for the last 200,000 years — so you can see it takes a really long time for intelligent life to develop."

Mars looks inviting, say researchers

In addition to Earth, the scientists looked at eight other planets in the universe, including Mars and Kepler 22b. Every planet looked at had a different "lifetime". According to researchers, the habitable-zone lifetimes on the planets studied ranged from 1 billion years to 54.72 billion years.

"If we ever needed to move to another planet, Mars is probably our best bet," Rushby said in a statement. "It's very close and will remain in the habitable zone until the end of the sun's lifetime — 6 billion years from now."

According to Huffington Post, Rushby said Gliese 581d was also looked at as an interesting possibility.

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly been saying for years humans must colonize other planets or face extinction. Although, many of his scenarios have been of the doomsday type.

The full study, entitled 'Habitable Zone Lifetimes of Exoplanets around Main Sequence Stars', was published in the journal Astrobiology in September 2013.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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