Starts With A Bang

The Four Ways The Earth Will Actually End (Synopsis)

A collision between two large, rocky bodies in space can be catastrophic for one or both of them. This has happened to Earth before, and will no doubt happen again. But the end of the Earth? That's happening even if something like this never does. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return.” -Carl Sagan

Here on Earth, we hear every so often about a conspiracy of how the world will come to an end. The end of the Mayan calendar; Y2K; an encounter with Nibiru; or a biblical prophesy come true are only a small selection of what people “predict” will bring a demise to our world, and soon. Yet even most of the egregious natural or human-caused disasters won’t bring an end to even our species, much less the entire world. Scientifically, the end of the world will happen in four stages.

Today on Earth, ocean water only boils, typically, when lava or some other superheated material enters it. But in the far future, the Sun’s energy will be enough to do it, and on a global scale. Image credit: Jennifer Williams / flickr.

The first one is straightforward and inevitable: humanity will only continue to exist for so long. But the subsequent disasters that bring an end to our world are entirely predictable, and include the boiling of our oceans, the charring and evaporation of our atmosphere, and finally the loss of the remaining Earth-corpse to the vastness of the Universe in one of three possible ways. The world will indeed come to an end, but none of the conspiracy theories can stand up to the actual science.

After approximately five to seven billion years more, the Sun will exhaust the hydrogen in its core. The interior will contract, heat up, and eventually helium fusion will begin. At this point, the Sun will swell, vaporize Earth’s atmosphere, and char whatever’s left of our surface. Image credit: ESO / Luís Calçada.

Come get the full story on the four different ways, in order, that the Earth will someday come to an end!