The Sun — the centre of Earth’s solar system — is likely going through its middle age, data published in June from the Gaia spacecraft suggests. According to the spacecraft’s estimate, the Sun’s age is 4.57 billion years. The European Space Agency’s observatory is credited with providing the universe’s most accurate map that could determine when the Sun would die.
Launched in 2013, the Gaia space observatory is expected to operate until 2025. The European Space Agency has designed Gaia for astrometry — measuring with unprecedented precision the positions, distances, and motions of stars.
GAIA’S LATEST DATA
Its latest data contains information about many stars, their composition, and temperature. Scientists have used this data to determine how the Sun would evolve in the future. The data suggest that the Sun was fusing hydrogen into helium and generally being stable. This information follows news of the Sun bursting with solar flares, solar storms, and coronal mass ejections.
The Sun, a giant star, will eventually die — the process will begin when its core runs out of hydrogen. At this time, a fusion process will begin that will change into a red giant star and lower the Sun’s surface temperature.
However, the process depends on the star’s mass and chemical composition. Orlagh Creevey from France’s Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur combed through the data for the most accurate stellar observations and focused on stars that have surface temperatures between 3,000K and 10,000K as these are the longest-lived stars and can reveal the Milky Way’s history.
Creevey said: “We wanted to have a really pure sample of stars with high precision measurements.” The same was filtered to only show those stars that had the same chemical composition and mass as the Sun.
WHEN THE WILL SUN DIE
Analysing Gaia’s data, scientists concluded that the Sun would reach a maximum temperature when it reaches approximately 8 billion years of age. At that point, it will cool down, grow in size, and become a red giant star. At 1,011 billion years, the Sun will reach the end of its life cycle.
Creevey said: “If we don’t understand our own Sun and there are many things we don’t know about it how can we expect to understand all of the other stars that make up our wonderful galaxy.”
The European Space Agency added that the Sun would eventually become a dim white dwarf and reach the end of its life.