Death of the Sun

2006, Science  -  50 min Leave a Comment
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The Sun sustains all life on our planet. As we frolic and bask under the warmth of its glow, little do we realize how it may one day have the power to destroy us as well. Death of the Sun, produced by the renowned Naked Science series, outlines the birth and potential demise of the most formidable star in our solar system.

The aging process is rarely kind to any living thing. But in the case of the Sun, the diminishing returns of old age could mean disaster for our entire planet. Our technologies would be rendered useless, plant life would wither without nourishment, and mankind could be rocked by a power akin to a global nuclear explosion.

"All stars have a limited lifetime," warns astrologer Donald Brownlee early in the film. In order to determine the Sun's life expectancy, scientists must first discover how old it is. Until recently, collecting the samples necessary to make this determination has proven impossible amidst such a volatile and scorching celestial environment. As detailed in the film, scientists eventually uncovered an ingenious method for arriving at this calculation, and it involved the capturing of atoms from the Sun's energy force, a free-falling parachute, and the daredevil heroics of a Hollywood stunt pilot.

The research doesn't stop there. The filmmakers visit various institutes across the United States, and interview key players who operate on the forefront of this field of study. One researcher reveals how energy emanates from the Sun's core, and manages to overcome enormous obstacles to reach us here on Earth. An astrophysicist calls upon the science of sound to pinpoint the Sun's age with even greater precision. Space weather forecasters examine the Sun's most violent episodes throughout recent history, and keep constant watch for any further activities that could disrupt our way of life.

The Sun might be 93 million miles away from us, but its relevance to our daily existence couldn't be more immediate. Death of the Sun may seem like a fantastical what-if scenario from a big budget disaster film. But for many scientists, it's not a question of if, but when.