Surprising Ways the Solar System Could End | Unveiled

The Surprising Ways the Solar System Could
End Our planet has gone through a number of mass
extinctions, yet somehow life has managed to survive. But the Earth is only one small part of the
solar system as a whole… and it would take a lot more than a single stray meteor to threaten
the sun and everything else. So, what does have the power to inflict such
total ruin? This is Unveiled, and today we’re uncovering
the extraordinary ways that the solar system could end! Are you a fiend for facts? Are you constantly curious? Then why not subscribe to Unveiled for more
clips like this one? And ring the bell for more fascinating content! First, we should define the boundaries of
the solar system. Although the planets and moons are a large
part of it, they don’t quite complete the picture. According to NASA, any object bound to our
sun’s gravity is part of our solar system. That means that all of the asteroids and comets
even as far out as the Oort cloud are included, which significantly broadens the size of what
we’re talking about! Taking all of it into account, it has a radius
of around 100,000 Astronomical Units, with one Astronomical Unit equalling the distance
from the Earth to the Sun. It’s a gigantic area… so, if we’re imagining
its destruction, we’re contemplating something truly spectacular! And what better starting point than the biggest,
most fundamental point of destruction of all? In the wider picture, it’s not exactly clear
how our universe will end, but there are various pretty deadly possibilities. It could expand forever toward Heat Death
(or the Big Freeze), where all the stars eventually run out of fuel and supernova, leaving black
holes in their wake – which steadily grow in number to devour all there is. Another possibility is the Big Crunch, where
gravity ultimately backfires and draws all the matter in the universe back to a single
point in space – re-merging stars, planets and entire galaxies together into that infinitely
dense point, much as the universe was before the Big Bang. Or maybe we’ll see the Big Rip, where dark
matter eventually causes the universe to expand fast enough to tear itself apart. No matter which option ends up happening,
it’d be sayonara to the solar system (as well as every other form of matter). And, according to some of the most pessimistic
projections, it could happen as soon as five billion years from now (although it could
also be trillions of years in the future). But, let’s be honest, the solar system ending
when the universe does isn’t all that… surprising. After all, nothing can outrun the collapse
of reality itself! If it doesn’t take the end of everything
to signal the solar system’s doom, the demise could be caused by our very own sun. Currently, the sun burns hydrogen into helium,
but when it runs out of hydrogen it will effectively start to die. And when that happens, it’ll no longer be
able to hold onto its outer shell, which will continue expanding outwards, engulfing the
planets that orbit closest to it in a fiery farewell. This is the red giant phase of the sun, and
it’s widely expected to happen in four-to-five billion years’ time. When the sun goes red giant, it’s believed
that Mercury and Venus will be completely consumed, while the other planets – starting
with Earth – are scorched to become hotter than ever before. Our sun isn’t massive enough to go supernova
and self-destruct at the end of its life, however. Instead, it’ll eventually transform into
a White Dwarf, at which point the solar system will look completely different from what it
does now. But there would still be a solar system (of
sorts) to speak of. Even when the sun dies, there would still
be something here. That said, just because our star isn’t about
to full-on explode on us, we could – in the far, far future – still find our little corner
of space adversely affected by another star. Were a massive enough star to somehow drift
to within 50 light-years away from us, for example, and were it to go supernova, then
that could have at least some consequences for us. The sheer energy could theoretically disrupt
the orbits and general balance we enjoy but, failing that, the radiation might eventually
fry our atmospheres. Of all the “ways the solar system could
end”, though, this is probably the least likely to actually happen. But were something like it to happen, things
could get worse still… the solar system could find itself caught in the crosshairs
of what’s known as a gamma-ray burst. Thought to occur during high-mass supernovae,
they’re a massive source of energy and among the most powerful explosions ever observed
in the universe… they’re so huge, in fact, it’s said they can release more power in
ten seconds than the sun could in 10 billion years! A lot of incredibly unlikely (and definitely
surprising) cosmological events have to happen between now and then for this to transpire,
but in the midst of a gamma-ray burst is definitely not where any solar system wants to be! Scale back just a little, though, and there
is something similarly massive that we do know really will occur in time. The galaxy that the solar system is a part
of, the Milky Way, definitely is on a crash course with the closest galaxy to it, Andromeda…
and possibly with the smaller Triangulum galaxy, too. This monumental meeting in space is set to
start in about 4.5 billion years’ time. And, when it happens, it could be quite the
astronomical lottery! We’re not so concerned about actual stars
or planets colliding into one another, because there’s just too much empty space for that
to happen all that often… What could be deadly, though, is the gravitational
onslaught we’d experience when an entire galaxy crashes into (and through) our own. As Andromeda and the Milky Way weave together,
the gravity exerted by each will continually pull both of them back together again. It’s a repetitive process that we currently
think will take about 1.5 billion years to complete! In the grand scheme of space, our solar system
is small enough to possibly make it out alive… but it’s also impossible to know for sure. If another star, a black hole or anything
with enough mass passes too close to us, it could snatch our planets, moons and objects
away… or else send them hurtling outwards into empty space. What was once the solar system could then
find itself merging with the remnants of other systems, orbiting a totally different star
under totally different conditions. And even if the solar system steers clear
of anything quite like that, there are the supermassive black holes at the centres of
both galaxies to consider. If (or when) they meet, merge or in any way
interact with each other, the immense shockwaves could put everything else – including us – out
of balance. So, if our solar system was unfortunate enough
to be anywhere close to this hypothetical happening, we’d be caught up in total mayhem. And if we were then too close, we’d simply
serve as more matter for the now binary black hole system to consume! From the demise of our universe, to the expiration
of our sun, to a collision course between galaxies and the potential meeting of supermassive
black holes… there are clearly ways that even the entire solar system could find itself
in a very vulnerable position! But all of those scenarios ultimately amount
to being natural disasters; really big natural disasters! But, for some, the solar system could come
to a close by less natural and more nefarious means… Although it still seems unlikely since we
don’t know of any other intelligent life, it’s arguably possible that another, higher
civilization brings about our doom. The Kardashev Scale ranks civilizations based
on how much power they’re able to harness, and Type III civilizations are able to master
the power of an entire galaxy. Humans on Earth haven’t reached even Type
I yet, but say we have an unknown, distant neighbour somewhere in the Milky Way fast
approaching Type III… and they come across our sun… In order to rise up the Kardashev Scale, they’d
require our sun and all of its energy. Whether they’d gain it by force or by peaceful
means, it’d be bad news for us. Of course, this particular turn of events
really is only hypothetical. But were anything like it ever to actually
happen, even more so than the death of the sun or the downfall of the universe, it’d
surely be one of the most surprising ways that our solar system could end. What do you think? Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments, check out these
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