What will happen to Earth when, in a few billion years’ time, the Sun is a hundred times bigger than it is today?
Using the most powerful radio telescope in the world, an international team of astronomers has set out to look for answers in the star L2 Puppis.
Five billion years ago, this star was very similar to the Sun as it is today.
This metamorphosis will have a dramatic impact on the planets of our Solar System. Mercury and Venus, for instance, will be engulfed in the giant star and destroyed.
To answer this question, an international team of astronomers observed the evolved star L2 Puppis. This star is 208 light years away from Earth – which, in astronomy terms, means nearby. The researchers used the ALMA Radio Telescope, which consists of 66 individual radio antennas that together form a giant virtual telescope with a 16-kilometer diameter.
300 million kilometer from L2 Puppis – or twice the distance between the Sun and the Earth – the researchers detected an object orbiting the giant star.
In all likelihood, this is a planet that offers a unique preview of our Earth five billion years from now.
A deeper understanding of the interactions between L2 Puppis and its planet will yield valuable information on the final evolution of the Sun and its impact on the planets in our Solar System.
Whether the Earth will eventually survive the Sun or be destroyed is still uncertain. L2 Puppis may be the key to answering this question.