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Monday, August 31, 2015

If the sun suddenly went poof!

Submarine Volcano    (Photo by NOAA)
If you’re the type of person who feels that such imagining is a waste of time, please note that Albert Einstein begged to differ. Wondering what would happen on Earth if the sun suddenly disappeared was his idea of an “important thought experiment.”

Others, too, have given this poof! effect some
serious consideration.  Jessica Orwig of Business Insider offers some intriguing thoughts on the matter.

During the first eight minutes after solar ground zero, we human Earthlings might not notice all that much difference.  Because light and gravity travel at the same constant speed, and because both take “roughly 8 minutes to reach Earth” from our nearest star, it would take that amount of time for us to see or feel the sun’s absence.

After eight minutes, there would still be some light from the heavens.  The other stars would presumably be shining, and “even the planets would remain visible for a brief time.”

Photosynthesis, however, would have stopped at the eight-minute mark.  This would lead to the imminent death of small plants, and to a steady decrease of the Earth’s temperature.  Within a week, Earth’s average surface temperature would be 32 degrees Fahrenheit; within a year, negative 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although this doesn’t bode at all well for humans, it will not necessarily affect the “geothermal-loving organisms” that live deep within the ocean.  They could probably survive for billions of years, deriving “food and energy from the heat coming out of these geothermal vents.”


Copyright August 31, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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