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)

Related Articles

Video NASA Confirms Voyager 1 Has Left Solar System

Probe was launched 36 years ago and is now 19 billion kilometers away from the sun

New Exoplanet Spotted with Earth-based Telescope

Scientists say planet is 57 light years away and four times the size of Jupiter

'Super Earth' Exoplanet May Have Water Atmosphere

Planet, detected by Japanese astronomers, is located 40 light years from Earth in constellation Ophiuchus
VOA News
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.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
    Next 
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.
Comments page of 3
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs