On Wednesday we shared the latest video by AsapSCIENCE, a YouTube channel we love, that asked the question, “Can we survive the Sun’s death?” It’s an interesting video that concludes that it actually is possible, but the reaction by many Twitter users has been dismissive. We’ll explain further, since they clearly didn’t watch the video.
First, here’s another chance to watch the video and have the concept of “gravity assist” explained to you with pleasant music and whiteboard doodles:
And in case you’re not sure what we mean when we say Twitter users were “dismissive” here are actual responses we got to the article. Most of them came after @Mashable shared the story if you’re wondering why they’re mentioned so often.
— The Answer Is No (@YourTitleSucks) October 10, 2013
— RX-78-2 (@Oshensyde) October 10, 2013
— Jonny Kane (@JonnyKane1) October 10, 2013
— Michael Tyrrell (@mikeytyrrell93) October 10, 2013
Now onto the explanation.
In about one billion years the Sun will begin to die. As that happens it will heat up and essentially melt the surface of the Earth before becoming a red giant and engulfing the planet entirely — unless we move the planet. That’s the part that people who didn’t watch the video and just spat out a pithy tweet missed.
By capturing an asteroid and putting it on a repeating orbit between the Sun and Jupiter that would have it pass near the Earth on each trip, we could slowly begin pulling the Earth away from the Sun and farther out into the solar system. It would take millions of years, but we have a billion years to make it happen.
The video also makes it clear that the gravity assist plan is not without its dangers and drawbacks. The Moon might not successfully be pulled along with us. We could adversely impact the orbit of other planets, and maybe even accidently hurl the asteroid in question into ourselves. A lot can go wrong, but that doesn’t change the fundamental premise of the video:
It is possible for the Earth to survive the death of the Sun.
- We just used gravity assist to launch the Juno mission to Jupiter
- Of course we really won’t be doing anything like this until NASA is allowed to work
- This five-year-old is really upset that NASA.gov is down