The Lode

Where would we be without the sun?

Saumyaveer Chauhan, Lode Writer

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Imagine a fine Sunday morning in the month of June, with the sky painted a vibrant blue, suspended white puffs of clouds stand-ing sentient against the canvas of the sky, a pleasant summer breeze ruffling the glistening green leaves of the trees and the warmth of the golden sun wrapping you all around in a satisfying hug in consolation after a long, biting winter. What if, at the moment, some omnipotent entity made our sun disappear with a snap of their fingers? Well, for one thing, I would surely not be able to wear my favorite pair of sunglasses to college and I am certain that many of you won’t like the results either. But we don’t have to worry. The death of our sun is still billions of years away.

However, let’s still consider the possibility of our sun disappearing in the blink of an eye. Well, we wouldn’t even know if that happened until eight minutes and twenty seconds after the event. That’s because it takes that much time for the sun’s light to reach us and the same goes for the effect of gravitational pull of the sun on the earth to die—according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, gravity is surprisingly not instant, but travels at a speed which is the same as light. The moment the earth loses the sun’s gravitational influence it would slingshot away from its orbit and continue on a straight path tangent to its original orbit. Along the way, it could get caught up in the gravitational influence of other planets and perhaps, we could find our home in an entirely new solar system, given there are almost 100 billion in our galaxy, or maybe we could lose our blue planet to a devastating collision.

But what happens to our lives if the earth’s path avoids any such collision? Well, most of us could have our fantasies of living a very long night satisfied—something that is already common at the poles. It would be a night lit by city lights for eternity. Health-wise, loss of exposure to the sun could lead to poor bone health unless everyone starts living off Vitamin D supplements—which would be an impractical thing to do in the long run. Also, just as Superman needs the sun in order to recharge his Kryptonian powers, in the same way we need it in order to feel energetic and productive.

Looking at the situation from a scientific standpoint, photosynthesis would stop immediately. Ecologists assert that 99.9 percent of the natural productivity on earth is done by photosynthesis. This means that plants wouldn’t exhale the life-sustaining oxygen that all living beings need in order to survive and that the plants would die eventually in days or weeks. However, there’s a silver lining to this predicament. Our atmosphere contains almost one quintillion kilograms of oxygen and we breathe six trillion kilograms on an average every year. So, even without photosynthesis, it would be a long time before we have to worry about synthesizing oxygen for the population on earth—at least thousands of years based on the remaining reserve of oxygen.

Nearly 70 percent of the light radiated by the sun is absorbed by the lands, oceans and atmosphere on earth. The heat energy from these elements gets trapped in the atmosphere to keep the earth warm at an average surface temperature of 15°C (59°F) by a phenomenon commonly known as the greenhouse effect. With the sun gone, the earth would lose heat exponentially. The first week, the average surface temperature could be 0°C. Which wouldn’t be a problem since we survive through that all the time. By the end of the year, the temperature could plummet down to about -73°C (-99.4°F). At severe temperature dips like this, frostbite, hypothermia and an easy death are a real concern.

Earth’s inner core is quite hot at a blazing 5000°C and alters the topography of the land in some areas to form hot springs of water and geyser basins. Our best option could be to move to those places to fight the exacting temperatures. There’s one good thing: there would not be any primary contributing factor that until now led to global warming, which is a serious issue on the rise today.

Within three years, all the oceans would freeze, marking a sixth Ice Age in the history of the earth. Humans to survived the last Ice Age that lasted roughly 10,000 years, but this would be different. Not all life-forms would endure and animal-hunting would soon ex-haust our only resource for food. That’s the point when we would turn to colonizing under water. Creating an underwater city like Atlantis is feasible and the only thing that stops it from being a reality right now is lack of interest and funding. Ice would encapsulate the water beneath it and act as an excellent insulator to keep it from freezing. Billions of years later, water could still exist, protected and insulated from space with miles of ice above it and kept warm by the vents that spew hot streams of water from the ocean beds. With sophisticated technology to maintain an environmental control of air supply, pressure, temperature and humidity in habitable underwater structures, and relying on a marine source for food we could colonize and live a life beneath the frozen oceans forever. With or without the sun, life could perpetuate for a long time.

*Note” this article ran 11/15/2018

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Where would we be without the sun?