Illustration Credit & Copyright: QAuZ on DeviantArt.
I really enjoy these thinking posts and it seems that you do as well so let’s fire up another one.
What if the Sun disappeared? I’m not talking about the Sun slowly dying, swelling and burning out and taking us all with it which will likely be the case; I’m talking about instantaneous disappearance. I know it can’t happen but either can reaching the speed of light by anything that has mass but it’s always one of the hottest topics in the universe so let’s take a few to think about it.
CLICK; lights out. What caused the event and how, we don’t know and it’s not important for the discussion, just know the Sun is now gone. Light, heat, energy and the very gravity that holds our solar system has suddenly disappeared. Gravity, even though we don’t truly know what it is, we know what it does and it travels at the speed of light. So as the Sun disappears, the lack of gravity will arrive with darkness. At 3.2 minutes the impending wall of darkness reaches Mercury. Darkness swallows the tiny planet in a fraction of a second, the gravity that holds it into orbit is also now lost and the wayward planet no longer orbits. As only its forward motion remains, it continues on in the relatively straight direction and speed that it was moving at the moment the event reached them.
To illustrate the loss of gravity we can use those dreaded amusement park chain swing rides as an example. You’re sitting in your swing, which represents the planets and very quickly orbiting the center as the machine that’s representing the Sun spins you. You can feel the forces acting upon you as your swing rises with the speed to the point where your swing is almost on its side. The only thing holding you to the machine is the chains that connect you to it which in this case act as our planets gravity. Now imagine those chains instantly disconnect…….Don’t imagine the end result, just think about what happens when you become free of the chains. You don’t continue spinning, you continue on in the direction and speed you were going at the time you disconnected. Here on Earth, you’re going to slow and be pulled to the ground soon after but in space, you will just continue on.
6 minutes after the event (2.8 minutes after Mercury) darkness has come to Venus and it too has now changed course from orbiting to a straight path. But hold on, don’t we have eyes in the skies above Mercury and Venus in the form of Mercury Messenger and Venus Express? Yes we do, but unfortunately for us, they communicate with us at the speed of light as well. We are doomed to get the message at the same instant that the event arrives……..8.3 minutes after it began (2.3 minutes after Venus).
Another lazy afternoon riding the “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture in Boston Common is horrifically interrupted by instantaneous darkness; in the sky, now only stars. The entire daylight and twilight regions of Earth are notified of their coming fate instantly but if you are on the night side of Earth it may take a little while. If you happened to be outside at night when this happened you would observe some creepy occurrences as the Moon would “turn off” right before your eyes as the flood of sunlight that was illuminating it runs dry. Depending on where the planets are in the solar system and in the sky, you would slowly watch them blink out of existence throughout the night, leaving only the stars of the Milky Way. Within days the Earth would be many degrees below zero and in a month or so, hundreds of degrees below zero. Photosynthesis and plant life would die within weeks. Any atmosphere would eventually freeze and fall to the ground and human life on Earth would cease to exist aside from small pockets of underground dwellers, some lucky enough to survive fighting for their lives and remain close to geothermal locations and energy plants (especially nuclear) where heat will remain for many years and those onboard the ISS until upward of a year later they too have no way to survive and nowhere to come down to. Amazingly enough, as the Earth’s land and oceans freeze and are subjected to the hostilities of space, extremophiles far below the frozen surface living near hydrothermal vents would never even know what happened as they live on happily.
This wave of unstoppable darkness will continue to propagate out into what’s left of the solar system, one by one, turning out the lights and sending the planets off individually to their own corners of the galaxy, eventually the faster inner planets would be further from where the Sun once was than the slower outer planets and even the Termination shock, Heliosheath and Bow shock would all shut down. Let’s not leave this post all gloom and doom. What’s to say that a planet from our solar system, say, Earth won’t get trapped into orbit around another star in the galaxy (which is hypothesized to be happening quite often in the galaxy) and reawaken from its frozen slumber. Kind of like cryogenic freezing into the future, except not for us but for the planet itself.
This situation is both horrifying and extremely thought provoking all at the same time. Couple things I want to address here while I’m thinking about it.
1: Someone needs to create some artwork that depicts those amusement park swings as the Sun and the little planets, dwarf planets etc. sitting in the seats having fun……can’t stop thinking about it now.
2: What are some ideas that you can come up with that could prolong or even save a percentage of humanity in the face of an event like this. An event like this there would be no way to stop, but is there any way to survive?
QAuZ DeviantArt page for this illustration: http://qauz.deviantart.com/art/Frozen-Planet-440054884