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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.