A group of researchers claimed in a new study that the death of the Sun could disintegrate the entire asteroid belt around it. The destruction of the asteroids would be caused by the intense electromagnetic radiation coming from the Sun.

Similar to other stars in the Universe, the Sun's energy is limited and will eventually run out. Once this happens, the massive star will turn into a white dwarf. Scientists estimated that this would happen in about five to six billion years from now.

Death Of The Sun

asteroid in a collision course
Representational image of asteroids approaching the earth Pixabay

According to the authors of a new study, which was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, as the Sun enters the final stages of its life, it will expand and its brightness will increase. Eventually, or around a million years later, the Sun would collapse under the weight of its own gravity. This event would cause the Sun to transform into a white dwarf, which is a very dense dead star.

"When a typical star reaches the giant branch stage, its luminosity reaches a maximum of between 1,000 and 10,000 times the luminosity of our Sun," the study's lead author Dr Dimitri Veras said in a statement. "Then the star contracts down into an Earth-sized white dwarf very quickly, where its luminosity drops to levels below our Sun's."

The YORP Effect

Solar Orbiter
ESA's Solar Orbiter mission will face the Sun from within the orbit of Mercury at its closest approach. ESA/ATG medialab

The star's inevitable death will be accompanied by a powerful outburst of electromagnetic radiation that would affect small bodies in the Solar System, such as asteroids. This concept is based on the Yarkovsky-O'Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect, which was named after the four scientists who helped develop the idea.

According to the YORP effect, the energy from the Sun's outburst would be absorbed by asteroids and warm them up. Once the heat from the energy reaches the core of a space rock, it would be emitted again by the asteroid in various directions as thermal radiation.

Destroying The Asteroid Belt

The emissions from the surface of the asteroid would generate small amounts of thrust, causing the space rock to wobble and rotate wildly. As explained by the researchers, the effect of the Sun's radioactive outburst could be powerful enough to cause asteroids to fracture and eventually disintegrate as they spin uncontrollably.

"The YORP effect in these systems is very violent and acts quickly, on the order of a million years," the researchers stated. "Not only will our own asteroid belt be destroyed, but it will be done quickly and violently. And due solely to the light from our Sun."