The life cycle of our Sun began roughly 4.6 billion years ago. In roughly 4.5 to 5.5 billion years, when it depletes its supply of hydrogen and helium, it will enter into its Red Giant Branch (RGB) phase, where it will expand to several times its current size and maybe even consume Earth! And then, when it has reached the end of its life-cycle, it is believed that it will blow off its outer layers and become a white dwarf.
Until recently, astronomers were not certain how this would take place and whether or not our Sun would end up as a planetary nebula (as most other stars in our Universe do). But thanks to a new study by an international team of astronomers, it is now understood that our Sun will end its life-cycle by turning into a massive ring of luminous interstellar gas and dust – known as a planetary nebula.
Their study, titled “The mysterious age invariance of the cut-off the Planetary Nebula Luminosity Function“, was recently published in the scientific journal Nature. The study was led by Krzysztof Gesicki, an astrophysicist from Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland; and included Albert Zijlstra and M Miller Bertolami – a professor from the University of Manchester and an astronomer the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata (IALP), Argentina, respectively.
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