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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs