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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
 Previous   Next 
by: fred from: colorado
September 19, 2013 1:35 PM
so this is worth reporting why?


by: patcap from: florida
September 19, 2013 1:34 PM
bring the trees, bring the dogs


by: Bill Ramos from: Scottsdale AZ
September 19, 2013 1:31 PM
Its so presumptuous to believe that we as a species will last even long enough to see the next century much less the next 1.75 Billion years!


by: Guruchild from: Earth
September 19, 2013 1:28 PM
As someone who plans to forever (so far, so good!), this disturbs me deeply. One day, Earth and the solar system simply won't exist in any form I once knew. I'll be floating around in the gases of the galaxies and stars forever... wait a minute. Well played, universe. Well played.


by: JP from: Maryland
September 19, 2013 1:27 PM
Al Gore said we have one week....Wha!!!!!!


by: Preston from: Fall River, Ma.
September 19, 2013 1:12 PM
Having just returned from an extended visit to the future, let me assure all of you that by the year 2273 world scientists will be deploying "Insolation Screens" that will fully envelop the entire planet, allowing for near-perfect controls over incoming solar radiation as well as protecting against meteorite strikes.

Note: this technology would have been deployed much sooner had it not been for the tragic Global War IV that wrecked with the planet's atmosphere (circa 2133).


by: scott from: Holuston
September 19, 2013 1:07 PM
Junk science big time.


by: Carl F. Enz from: Glendora,California
September 19, 2013 1:01 PM
The way that WORLD EVENTS are going,Wars,Financial Crisis wil cut life on Earth sooner than that!!!!


by: Anonymous
September 19, 2013 1:00 PM
Glad I saw this story. I had planned on buying new shoes today, seems silly now.


by: Trevor Green
September 19, 2013 12:58 PM
Maybe it makes sense to reform the entire earth in that span into something that we can control the orbit of. What would it take to move a planet? Or possibly construct one. :)

Comments page of 3
 Previous   Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid