Life on earth couldn't be possible without the sun. It provides us energy and light which we need in order to survive and to live. However, since the sun is also a star, it is expected that in a matter of time it will come to its end. In this regard, what things should we expect when this phenomenon happens and what certain events are involved in its dying process? The answer lies on the study by a group of astronomers led by Dr. Meridith Joyce at the Australian National University (ANU) with her co-led author Dr László Molnár and Dr László Kiss from the Konkoly Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Science.
The team observed a rare event which involves the death of a red giant star for the first time. The observations were said to be what would also likely to happen to our Sun when it is near it ends. According to Dr. Joyce, their observations made on a dying star T Ursae Minoris (T UMi) were said to be familiar with the sun.
"This has been one of the rare opportunities when the signs of ageing could be directly observed in a star when over human timescales. We anticipate our Sun and T UMi will end their lives much more quietly and slowly compared with a supernova- a powerful and luminous explosion," explained Dr. Joyce.
The T UMi was born about 1.2 billion years ago. It has the mass twice that of our Sun and more than 3000 light years from Earth. The star had undergone a series of pulses wherein its size, brightness and temperature fluctuated over the past million years during its transition in becoming a white dwarf, according to Phys.
"Energy production in T UMi has become unstable. During this phase, nuclear fusion flares up deep inside, causing hiccups that we call thermal pulses. These pulses of old stars like T UMi also enrich the entire Universe with elements including carbon, nitrogen, tin and lead," said Dr. Joyce.
The observations will support the predictions of the Sun becoming a red giant expanding afterwards expands. Then, the sun will glow a ring-shaped shell of gas in five billion years, leaving only a white dwarf.
"It will become much bigger as it approaches death-eating Venus, Mercury and possibly the Earth in the process- before shrinking to become a white dwarf," she added.
"Both amateur and professional astronomers will continue to observe the evolution of the star in the coming decade, which will provide a direct test of our predictions within the next 30 to 50 years."