Shop Windows to the Universe

Hands On Mineral Identification helps you to identify over 14,500 minerals! By M. Darby Dyar, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.

The Fate of the Sun

Click on image to watch animation.
Image from White Dwarf Research Corp.
In about 5 billion years, the hydrogen in the center of the Sun will start to run out. The helium will get squeezed. This will speed up the hydrogen burning. Our star will slowly puff into a red giant. It will eat all of the inner planets, even the Earth.

As the helium gets squeezed, it will soon get hot enough to burn into carbon. At the same time, the carbon can also join helium to form oxygen. The Sun is not very big compared to some stars. It will never get hot enough in the center to burn carbon and oxygen. These elements will collect in the center of the star. Later it will shed most of its outer layers, creating a planetary nebula, and reveal a hot white dwarf star.

Nearly 99 percent of all stars in the galaxy will end their lives as white dwarfs. By studying the stars that have already changed, we can learn about the fate of our own Sun.

Last modified November 3, 2004 by Travis Metcalfe.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

IMF

IMF stands for Interplanetary Magnetic Field. It is another name for the Sun's magnetic field. The Sun's magnetic field is huge! It goes beyond any of the planets. The Sun's magnetic field got its name...more

Coronal Mass Ejections

"Without warning, the relatively calm solar atmosphere can be torn asunder by sudden outbursts of a scale unknown on Earth. Catastrophic events of incredible energy...stretch up to halfway across the visible...more

Solar Activity

The Sun is not a quiet place, but one that exhibits sudden releases of energy. One of the most frequently observed events are solar flares: sudden, localized, transient increases in brightness that occur...more

The Solar Atmosphere

The visible solar atmosphere consists of three regions: the photosphere, the chromosphere, and the solar corona. Most of the visible (white) light comes from the photosphere, this is the part of the Sun...more

The Solar Interior

To understand how our Sun works, it helps to imagine that the inside of the Sun is made up of different layers, one inside the other. The core, or the center of the Sun, is the region where the energy...more

High Altitude Observatory

Scientists at the High Altitude Observatory (HAO) try to understand the changes we see in the Sun over time. They also study how these changes affect the atmosphere of the Earth. There are four main areas...more

Sun's Effect on Earth's Weather (Wind)

Energy from the Sun affects many things on Earth. One of the main things the Sun does is warm our planet, including the atmosphere. This energy drives much of our weather. The solar cycle, the rise and...more

The Hydrogen Fusion Process

In the basic Hydrogen fusion cycle, four Hydrogen nuclei (protons) come together to make a Helium nucleus. This is the simple version of the story. There are actually electrons, neutrinos and photons involved...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA