News / Science & Technology

Journal: Life on Earth Will End in 1.75 to 3.25 Billion Years

Loops, flares and eruptions on particularly active day on the sun.  As the sun ages, it will expand and the Earth will be too hot to support life. (Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)
Loops, flares and eruptions on particularly active day on the sun. As the sun ages, it will expand and the Earth will be too hot to support life. (Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

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The human race has 1.75 billion years – and maybe a lot more – to find a new home, according to a new study on how long habitable conditions will last on Earth.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Britain looked at exoplanets – planets outside our solar system – to come up with their estimate of how long Earth will be in the Sun’s “habitable zone.” This is the distance from a planet’s star at which temperatures are conducive to having liquid water on the surface, and therefore life as we know it.

“We used stellar evolution models to estimate the end of a planet’s habitable lifetime by determining when it will no longer be in the habitable zone,” said Andrew Rushby, from UEA’s school of Environmental Sciences. “We estimate that Earth will cease to be habitable somewhere between 1.75 and 3.25 billion years from now. After this point, Earth will be in the ‘hot zone’ of the sun, with temperatures so high that the seas would evaporate. We would see a catastrophic and terminal extinction event for all life.”

The findings also shed light on the potential for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Almost 1,000 planets outside our solar system have been identified so far by astronomers. 

“The amount of habitable time on a planet is very important because it tells us about the potential for the evolution of complex life – which is likely to require a longer period of habitable conditions,” said Rushby.

He added that while there were insects 400 million years ago, modern humans only evolved within the past 200,000 years.

“Of course, much of evolution is down to luck, so this isn’t concrete, but we know that complex, intelligent species like humans could not emerge after only a few million years, because it took us 75 per cent of the entire habitable lifetime of this planet to evolve. We think it will probably be a similar story elsewhere,” he said.

Rushby and his colleagues looked at one exoplanet, Kepler 22b, and estimated its habitable lifetime to be 4.3 to 6.1 billion years. Another, Gliese 581d, could have a habitable lifetime of 42.4 to 54.7 billion years.

“This planet may be warm and pleasant for 10 times the entire time that our solar system has existed,” said Rushby.

While no true Earth-like planet has been discovered, the researchers say it’s possible there may be one as close as 10 light-years away, which is very close in astronomical terms. Despite the proximity, getting to such a planet would take hundreds of thousands of years with existing technology.

The solution may be closer to home.

“If we ever needed to move to another planet, Mars is probably our best bet. It’s very close and will remain in the habitable zone until the end of the Sun’s lifetime - six billion years from now,” Rushby said.

The paper appears in the journal Astrobiology.

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Comments page of 3
by: Ivabiggin from: minnesota
September 20, 2013 4:29 PM
LMAO. People are funny. They think now that we are here, evolution has stopped. In 1.75 billion years, the human species will be so long gone, we might not even be remembered!

by: Marge Bottomburp from: NYC
September 20, 2013 9:33 AM
This is so Un-dainty!

by: NVO from: USA
September 20, 2013 9:31 AM
NOT SO!! Ecclesiastes 1:4=The earth abides forever. Psalm 104:5 and Ephesians 3:21 all say its a WORLD WITHOUT END. I trust GOD, not the NEW WORLD ORDER.

by: Lynne Adams from: Melbourne, FL
September 19, 2013 10:39 PM
Will I have time to make my hair and pedicure appointments?

by: Elijah from: US
September 19, 2013 4:18 PM
You guys need to learn to cherry pick your data more carefully. If you would have said 17.5 years then you could have cause a fake crisis and gotten a huge increase in funding. You guys blew this opportunity. Check with your buddies over at the Climate Research Unit, they’ll show you how to fake your results in the name of science.

by: LoneCanadian from: Canada
September 19, 2013 2:28 PM
This assumes we don't destroy our planet first; which we're well on our way to doing.

by: Rutt Bridges from: Denver, CO, USA
September 19, 2013 1:55 PM
In 1950 our planet had a human population of 2.6 billion souls. Today, 63 years later we have 7.1 billion. Sixty-three years is the blink of an eye on a geologic time scale. Any article that supposes based simply on celestial planetary predictions that our species will still be around in 1.75 billion years is downright foolish.

by: Reva Madison from: Virginia
September 19, 2013 1:49 PM
h My Gawd! I gotta go now. Need to stock up on food, water, and find a deep hole to bury a shelter in. Oh, and guns - oh yes guns, that way I can shoot any other humans alive at that time.

by: bd from: texas
September 19, 2013 1:40 PM
seems a bit ambitious the idea that the human race will live 1.75 billion years? the odds are not in our favor... how many organisms have lived near that long vs how many organisms have become extinct? besides I highly doubt anyone in "power" will ever believe we will live another 5,000 years

by: Aulton White from: Adel, Ga
September 19, 2013 1:37 PM
OMG we only have 1.75-3.25, We have to prepare now. Cant wait for the last minute. Prepers nightmare.
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