The Sun has a very finite amount of energy and in around five billion years, it will cease to be. However, when it dies, it will go out in a blaze of glory, wreaking havoc across the solar system and the asteroid belt.
Planets on the inside of the asteroid belt, which includes Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, will be consumed as the Sun expands as it runs out of fuel at the end of its life, but the asteroid belt will be turned to dust, according to new research.
The asteroid belt is the vast region between Mars and Jupiter which contains millions of space rocks which orbit the Sun.
But it will be destroyed when the Sun dies as our host star releases a vast amount of electromagnetic radiation.
Something known as the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect sees small celestial bodies, such as asteroids, change their rotation when the heat of a star changes.
When the Sun is dying, it will heat and expand massively, causing the rotation of the asteroid belt to alter.
The light from the Sun will be absorbed by the asteroids, which then generates a thrust in the space rocks, according to the research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
This thrust can cause the asteroids to spin rapidly, and as they do they begin to disintegrate, eventually leaving just a cloud of space dust orbiting our expanding Sun.
Astrophysicist Dimitri Veras of the University of Warwick said: “When a typical star reaches the giant branch stage, its luminosity reaches a maximum of between 1,000 and 10,000 times the luminosity of our Sun.
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The remains of the asteroids will eventually create a debris disc, which orbit the dead star.
Dr Veras said: “These results help locate debris fields in giant branch and white dwarf planetary systems, which is crucial to determining how white dwarfs are polluted.
“We need to know where the debris is by the time the star becomes a white dwarf to understand how discs are formed.
“So the YORP effect provides important context for determining where that debris would originate.”