This perplexing, apparent contradiction posed "a long-standing mystery" about the end-of-life stages in low-mass stars, the worldwide team of researchers wrote in the study.
All stars die at some point, so even our Sun will find its end after all. If we are curious about how our star will find its end, the researchers have made a decision to run a few models and simulations and see what they get. The core of the star will shrink, but its outer layers will expand out to the orbit of Mars, engulfing our planet in the process.
"The data said you could get bright planetary nebulae from low mass stars like the sun, [but] the models said that was not possible, anything less than about twice the mass of the sun would give a planetary nebula too faint to see", said Professor Albert Zijlstra of Manchester Univeristy's School of Physics & Astronomy.
While scientists agree that the Sun will die in approximately 10 billion years, they were not sure what would happen next, until now. These rings bear the name of planetary nebulas and are pretty common whenever stars die.
The observations also revealed our star is just about the size of the smallest one that produced a visible nebula. That is to say, the sun will one day dramatically transform into a bright ring of cosmic dust. The planetary nebula is a big circular ring of the luminous gas.
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According to Zijlstra, such an event exposes the star's nucleus which is getting out of fuel, shutting down before finally dying.
Interestingly, the envelope at the time shines bright enough to make the dying star observable, although not for long - for maximum 10,000 years, which is quite brief from the standpoint of astronomy.
How Did They Discover It?As a result, some nebulae were not as visible from far away. "Problem solved, after 25 years!" said Zijlstra. Through these models, the researchers showed how the sun can still turn into a bright planetary nebula when it dies.
Professor Zijlstra added: "We found that stars with mass less than 1.1 times the mass of the sun produce fainter nebula, and stars more massive than 3 solar masses brighter nebulae, but for the rest the predicted brightness is very close to what had been observed".
Christophe Morisset, an astronomer at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, tells the publication that the new model operates on the theory that when lower-mass stars expel their envelopes, the cores heat up more rapidly than scientists previously thought. It is three times faster than the previous computer models. But a new model suggests the sun will go out with some style, creating a planetary nebula visible from millions of light-years away, reports Ian Sample at The Guardian.