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Planetary Nebula

Insight Into: The Fate of the Sun

Billions of years from now, the Sun will run out of the nuclear fuel that powers it. What will happen then?

Credits

Planetary Nebulas
 
 
 
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach.
 
All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA, ESA, and STScI except:
 
·       Sun rotation movie courtesy of NASA/STEREO
·       Animation of Sun becoming a red dwarf courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)
·       Animation of a planetary nebula’s expansion courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser)
·       Planetary nebula fly-around animation courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser)
·       Taurus constellation drawing from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
·       Abell 39 image courtesy of WIYN/NOAO/NSF
·       Bipolar planetary nebula formation animation by Thomas Goertel (STScI)
·       Garden Sprinkler Nebula image courtesy of ESA, A. Riera (Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain) and P. Garcia-Lario (European Space Agency ISO Data Centre, Spain)
·       Garden sprinkler animation courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)
·       Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009) image courtesy of Brad Ehrhorn/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF
·       Photo of observatory dome courtesy of Phil Massey, Lowell Observatory/NOAO/AURA/NSF
·       Animation of Hubble Space Telescope over Earth courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)
·       Cat’s Eye Nebula ground-based image courtesy of Bruce Balick, University of Washington
·       Ring Nebula ground-based image courtesy of Daniel Folha and Simon Tulloch, Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma
·       Helix Nebula ground-based image copyright Edward M. Henry
·       Image of Magellanic Clouds courtesy of ESO/C. Malin
·       Image of Large Magellanic Cloud © Australian Astronomical Observatory; photograph by David Malin
 
 
Written by Vanessa Thomas and John Stoke
Designed by John Godfrey 
Music courtesy of Association Production Music
 

Transcript

(SPEECH) 
 [DOWNBEAT MUSIC] 


(DESCRIPTION) 
 A close-up of the Sun's surface. Gases bubble and burn intense orange and yellow. 


Text, Our Sun will not live forever. 


Someday, billions of years from now, the Sun will run out of the nuclear fuel that powers it. 


The Sun in the distance. 


Text, As the Sun's core contracts and grows hotter, the Sun's outer layers will swell. 


The Sun grows, darkens and turns the Earth red. 


Text, Our star will turn into a "red giant." 


The Sun will puff up so much that it will engulf Mercury and Venus, and perhaps even Earth. 


The enlarged Sun engulfs and burns up the red Earth. 


Gases expand in a sphere in space. 


Text, Eventually, the Sun's outer layers will float away, forming clouds of gas and dust around the dying star. 


The gases spread in waves. 


Text, Ultraviolet energy from the Sun's hot core will heat the gas and cause it to glow. 


The gases glow red, orange, blue, and purple. 


Text, From the Sun's death, a planetary nebula may be born.