Until now, astronomers weren’t that sure that our Sun will turn into a planetary nebula at the end of its life. But now, Professor Albert Zijlstra and his colleagues at the University of Manchester believe that the Sun will have the same fate as other 90% of all stars.
A planetary nebula is a massive ring of interstellar gas, dust, and light, which marks the end of a star.
The authors of the study used a model for predicting the stars’ cycles of life. Professor Zijlstra explains their findings:
“When a star dies it ejects a mass of gas and dust — known as its envelope — into space. The envelope can be as much as half the star’s mass. This reveals the star’s core, which by this point in the star’s life is running out of fuel, eventually turning off and before finally dying.”
What makes the planetary nebula visible is the shiny ‘envelope,’ adds Professor Zijlstra.
Rethinking Old Theories
This model also helps solve other mysteries in astronomy. For example, it proved that a 25 theory was wrong:
“Old, low mass stars should make much fainter planetary nebulae than young, more massive stars. This has become a source of conflict for the past for 25 years. The data said you could get bright planetary nebulae from low mass stars like the Sun, the models said that was not possible, anything less than about twice the mass of the sun would give a planetary nebula too faint to see.”
Professor Zijlstra solved the 25-year-old problem, saying that the Sun will not produce a bright nebula, because they’ve found stars with a mass close to 1.1 times the mass of our Sun, and they create faint nebulas. He explains that the results will help astronomers measure the presence of stars in distant galaxies, and more:
“We even have found out what the Sun will do when it dies.”
You can find this study in the journal Nature Astronomy, which was published online this week.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere