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The Sun: A Necessity Or Not

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As you know the sun has been around for a while, five billion years to be exact, but have you ever wondered why we really need it? What if the sun just disappeared? To clarify, the sun will die billions of years from now from expanding. But what I am going to discuss in this paper is, what if it just suddenly disappeared?

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At the exact moment the sun disappeared, we would have no idea. It take light from the sun roughly eight minutes to travel to the earth, so for a little over eight minutes we would have no idea. But after words, confusion and mass panic would likely ensue. The sun’s gravitational hold on our planet would take the same amount of time to dissipate. This is because gravity waves generate at the same speed as light. So the moment we saw our sun disappears, the earth would lose its orbit and fly off into space. With no moon light or sun light the whole universe would be the earth’s only source of visible light. In 2004 Abdul Ahad calculated that the Milky Way contributes about as much light as 1/300 of a full moon. Photosynthesis would stop immediately. This is very important because without about 99.9% of the earth’s natural productivity is done by photosynthesis. Without the sun, plants would no longer produce life sustaining oxygen. But don’t worry. All of us, all 7 billion of us breath six trillion kg of oxygen every year. Our atmosphere contains a whopping quintillion kg of oxygen, meaning even without photosynthesis, it would take us thousands of years to run out of oxygen.

Most of the earth’s plants would die off in days. Except for large plants however. Most large enough trees have enough trees have enough sugar to live in the dark for years. Their problem is that the earth will get quit cold. They would freeze to death. Their blood, the water and sap inside them, solidifying before they died of starvation. Right now, with our sun, the average surface temperature on earth is a comfortable 14ํ or 15°C. Without the sun to add energy, the earth will radiate heat exponentially, meaning it would go fast at first and then happen more and more slowly. By the end of the 1st week without the sun the average surface temperature around the earth would be freezing, 0°C. Temperatures like this happen all the time on earth, so for the first few days or months we could get by, but at the end of the first year, the average surface temperature would be -73°C.

The chance of survival would be to move to geothermal areas, like Yellowstone or Iceland. These place would be the only safe havens for human on earth. Nearly all life on earth exists and is dependant on extraterrestrial energy, The Sun. but the earth generates its own heat. Down beneath the earth’s crust, it’s actually quite warm. 20% of this warmth comes from the fact that when earth formed, mass crushed so tightly in the middle that the pressure liquefied rock. The other 80% come from the fact that deep in its core, radioactive elements decay, providing the energy needed to keep the earth’s core at 5000°C. Anyone who failed to secure a position in these bastions of warmth or underground in a community heated with radioactive power, would like die within the first year without the sun.

In the next 10 -20 years things would start to get wet, with dew. But not with water droplets, instead droplets of liquid air. The air would literally become cold enough for the gases that make it up to condense or form clouds and precipitate. First as rain, and then when it got colder and colder, eventually as snow. In Fritz Leiber’s famous science short story “A Pail of Air” this has already happened. The earth was ripped away from the sun and in order to survive, a family must go outside in a special suit and scoop up a pail of just the oxygen snow. Bring it back in and plae it over a fire to warm and allow them to breath.

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