The Cosmic Chronicles – The Great Red Demise

From the Earth, to the Sun and out towards the great interstellar unknown every object has it’s story. All these things making up the universe, our solar system and life on Earth is as much a part of this great infinite clockwork. In fact the word Cosmos means the universe as a complex, ordered entity, delicately tied together with forces and matter. We are the great paradox, the universe looking upon itself and learning, maybe giving it meaning. Epic and almost unimaginable events have unfolded to make the Cosmos as we see it now, stories have unravelled before there was even a human around to tell the story. Long after the human race is gone the great cosmic story will keep unfolding until time is meaningless. Slowly we pick up the events piece by piece and these Stories of the Cosmos tell some of what currently know and understand.

Our Past and Present Sun

The Sun as we know it today is what is called a main sequence star, it’s place on the stellar life cycle is in the stage where it’s consuming it’s reserves of Hydrogen into Helium and the Sun is stable. The Sun has been fairly stable for billions of years, but it is not unchanging. The Sun as it slowly uses up it’s Hydrogen is getting brighter and warmer over time. This change is invisible to us as we go through our day to day lives. On a smaller scale the Sun goes through changes over a smaller time frame, every ten to twelve years the Sun goes through the solar cycle. The solar cycle is connected to the amount of sunspots on the sun, the cycle relates to the maximum and minimum number of spots soon on the surface of the Sun – the more sunspots means the greater the solar activity.

Over slightly longer timescales ice ages have come and gone, with this the glaciers that have shaped our world have grown and shrunk, leaving behind a landscape shaped from ice and flowing water. Long periods of minimum activity bring long cold winters, some of these periods have lasted years with ‘years without summers’ recorded.
With this the Earth’s poles are often lit up with ionised particles from the Sun when it goes through a period of greater activity, as these particles are drawn to the magnetic fields.

Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on

As far as we know the Sun will follow this life cycle of relatively sedate change, ebb and flow of cycles and the gradual increase in the heat it gives out for millions of years to come. Our calm and gentle star will keep shining in in this way, providing the life giving light and heat to Earth for as long as life is there to enjoy it.

The Future of our Sun

One day, in the far, far distant future the hydrogen fuel that has powered our Sun for billions of years will run out. This is an inevitability, the hydrogen the Sun collected during its creation will one day run out. This does not mean that the Sun will suddenly switch off, far from it. Instead the Sun will change. In a process called Stellar Nucleosynthesis the Sun will start burning Helium, making the Sun burn hotter, swelling it’s outer layers and turning the Sun from a bright white into a deep red. At this point our Sun will leave the main sequence and become a red giant. As the Sun swells it will consume the inner planets of Mercury and Venus, swallowed up by the very star they have orbited for countless eons. Earth may escape the same fate as the inner planets, but what will be left will be a scorched, barren, lifeless world. The life and civilisation that once inhabited it a distant memory.

Probing a glowing bubble of gas and dust encircling a dying star, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals a wealth of previously unseen structures.

Eventually the Sun will run out of Helium and will start to burn even heavier elements, Carbon, Oxygen, Silicon and Iron before the inner layers collapse under their own immense weight and the remaining matter ejected away into the vastness of space. All that will be left will be a white dwarf, a tiny remnant of hot, dense matter the last heat and light of a small star that once brought light to a species that looked up into the stars beyond and wondered.

If Earth still existed, the light from the white dwarf would be about as bright as the full moon on a cloudless night.

But while the Sun is still a red giant there is the possibility that worlds beyond Earth, orbiting what are now the distant outer planets could finally warm and thaw. With that warming there may come new possibility for life in what is now the darkness.

© Simon Farnell 2013 – 2023

Images remain property of original owners.

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24 thoughts on “The Cosmic Chronicles – The Great Red Demise

  1. Spellbindingly lyrical Simon.
    The introduction involving the universe was a post in itself, but that moved seamlessly into the future of our Solar System.
    This was a comprehensive explanation with none of the dryness which can be encountered, majestic portrayal of what is not actually a tragedy, just on a Universal Scale ‘Nothing new to see here folks,’. Maybe we should start investing in the Kuiper Belt in the next millennium?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I’ve mentioned the solar induced swings in temperatures in at least one of my own posts. The one I can recall was trying to look at other contributors to climate change beyond people are evil. From what I’ve read, the entire solar system is showing higher temperatures than previously recorded. That changes ZERO in terms of humanity needing to treat the planet better, but the big picture is more than people and NOT doomsday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank oyu – I appreciate that 🙂 I’ve heard this too and it’s not well publicised… So it’s either rubbish or not being promoted. I do agree though – either way we need to knock it off.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. FWIW, you have to have noticed a pattern similar to before the Renaissance where if it’s not a mainstream idea, it’s vilified and shouted down. I believe it’s true. The question is how big a contributor is it? Beyond that, we need to focus more on solutions than finger pointing for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well the thing is with this is if you break it down it could be pretty terrifying. If temperature rise is due to human activity – we can do something about that, even if people really don’t want to.
        If it’s the Sun then simply if it doesn’t stop we’re gonna fry and there’s not a great deal that can be done about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh joy… To be fair it would be incredible to witness however I suspect by then our AI’s will have killed us 😉

        If not we’ll be a crystal based life form and observing from space 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We’ve evolved enough to add almost a foot to our height since the revolution. Washington was considered huge at 6′ tall. So, I can’t rule anything out in thousands of years. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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