Tuesday, October 21, 2008

REALLY Planning Ahead

Here's an article (courtesy of New Scientist Space) that looks well beyond November 4 - about a billion years beyond. Starting in about 5 billion years, the sun will evolve into a red giant star and its outer gas shell will eventually engulf the Earth's orbit. But long before that, in 1.1 billion years, the sun will grow 11% brighter, raising average Earth temperatures to around 50 degrees C (120 degrees F). This extreme "global warming" will make life on Earth nearly impossible, although SPF 1000 sun screen will help.

The article mentions mass evacuation of the Earth - billions of rocket launches. Not very practical, but I assume if we survive that long, we will have long since developed space elevators or other more efficient space transportation methods. We would also need to have terraformed Mars or made other living arrangements in the outer solar system (space settlements of some sort). The article concludes that a better plan might be to move the Earth itself to a more distant orbit, maybe out around Mars (the hotter sun will make up for the increased distance). Sound challenging? It is, but there are at least two conceptual ways of doing it, though either method would take a very long time, as well as technical capabilities that don't nearly exist. So it's a good thing we're planning ahead! Of course bad stuff could happen well before then, so we better keep working on space technology.