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ninjacolin's avatar

Is the Earth pretty much stuck with life from now on? Could it ever really all be gone?

Asked by ninjacolin (14243points) October 5th, 2013
22 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

Let’s assume there was an event, you name it, mega asteroid, world war, or a contagious epidemic… With all the bomb shelters, nooks and crannies on our planet where life happens to have a chance to be hiding and/or flourishing in secret do you think at least SOME life would survive and evolve over another million years?

As long as the earth is around (eg. not sucked into a black hole or enveloped by the sun) Could the earth really ever be devoid of all life?

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talljasperman's avatar

It could come back… We came after the dinosaurs. Most the life on the planet was wiped out then.

Neodarwinian's avatar

Possibly so. One of a few finds of very deep life, usually extremophiles with a chemical metabolism of some sort. Multicellular life, a worm, has been found over a mile deep in a South African mine.

So, your scenario is tentatively feasible.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin The Milky Way Galaxy will begin its collision with our nearest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, in shortly over 2 billion years. It’s ashamed we won’t be around to watch the 5 billion year merger of the two galaxies play out, because it will truly provide a spectacular nighttime sky to watch, as this supercomputer generated video shows. That massive elliptical galaxy that the merger will create will likely generate enough radiation to sterilize Earth.

But it won’t need to do that. In just 1 billion years, assuming we don’t trigger it sooner, our slowly dying sun’s radiation level will have risen high enough to put Earth into runaway global warming much like that currently in effect on our nearest neighbor, Venus. Surface temperatures will be high enough to melt lead, and life as we know it will be gone. If any life remains at that point, it would have to be far underground, or adapted to thrive in temperatures even our hardiest extremophiles can’t handle today. All liquid water will be vaporized.

The sun will expand as it reaches its end of life in 7.59 billion years, with its photosphere finally encompassing earth and melting us into its mass just as it nears the peak of its expansion.

And have a nice weekend, @ninjacolin. 1 billion years is quite some time to learn how to migrate to someplace more hospitable. As it has been said, the meek shall inherit the kingdom of Earth, the wise will move on.

marinelife's avatar

No. certainly not one-celled life. There are anaerobic bacteria that don’t need oxygen to survive.

Coloma's avatar

It’s all gone downhill since the dinosaurs.
Yes to @ETpro ‘s sharing. Even the sun will die, and when that event occurs…well…it’s anyones guess what may or may not arise from the darkness again.

CWOTUS's avatar

Cheer up! If it’s all gone someday, then who would know?

ETpro's avatar

@CWOTUS Excellent point, @CWOTUS.

Coloma's avatar

and…if there is no one to know their is no one to care. lol

gailcalled's avatar

@Neodarwinian:Thank you for my new word-of-the-day: extremophile.

Rarebear's avatar

As long as there is a viable biosphere yes.

rojo's avatar

No, there would always be some form of life. We can only hope that the next species to arise is an intelligent one.

whitenoise's avatar

I thought those were members of the tea party?

Coloma's avatar

correction…double that “there.”

Neodarwinian's avatar


You are welcome. The word of today, to be specific, is…,


gailcalled's avatar

That’s too specific and too tough to misuse in an intelligible manner. Extremophile has better possibilites.

dxs's avatar

Don’t forget the cockroaches. They’ll survive, right?

dxs (15160points)“Great Answer” (0points)
mattbrowne's avatar

We can rule out life in the future red giant phase of our sun. Even extremophiles have to give up at some point. A solution is moving planet earth away from the sun when the time comes, then pushing it closer to the resulting white dwarf. It will give life some energy for a couple of 100 billion years.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne In the red giant phase, the Earth will be melted into the sun and its heavy elements will undergo gravitational collapse into the sun’s core. That means it will be 27,000,000 °F, or 14,999,982 °C. Warm, even for very hardy extremophiles.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – This is unclear and most likely the earth won’t get pulled into the sun’s core. Keep in mind that most of a red giant’s mass remains at the same place, i.e. far away from orbiting planets. The red giant’s outer regions i.e. photosphere is extremely thin and also relatively cool i.e. 2,500 to 3,500°C. The earth might be engulfed or not. Even if it does the earth most likely remains intact (the crust and mantle will consist of molten rock much like during the earth’s birth with the heavy bombardment). The thin photosphere would slow down the earth because of attrition, i.e. the distance of the earth to the giant’s core will get smaller, but this happens quite slowly. There are also outbound forces and the shedding of hydrogen can push the earth further away. Earth might continue to exist perhaps as fragments while orbiting the remnant white dwarf. See also this article:

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne My sources say otherwise. The Sun will blast away large amounts of its total mass at it moves into its Red Giant phase, which will cause the planets orbiting it to move further away as its gravity decreases. But modeling shows the Earth will fall a bit short of escaping its expansion, and will be melted into it. Not to worry. Even though this won’t happen for another 7.59 billion years, all life on Earth will be wiped out or have moved on in just 1 billion years as the sun’s radiation increases in its early death throes.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – A good article, but not conclusive. The calculations of the decaying orbit are far from precise. Earth could end up as described by Fraser Cain, but it’s a close call. Earth will certainly lose all elements present in the crust with low boiling points. But silicon, iron, nickel etc. might remain in a liquid state on the surface…

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne The paper is actually entirely about the probability the Earth will be melted into the Sun’s core. It has been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed Journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Let’s see how it stands up.

In contrast, the link you posted is to a University’s blog on It is not even about the probability of Earth being swallowed by the Sun. It deals with surviving water-bearing objects orbiting a distant white dwarf star that burned out hundreds of millions of years ago. Never mind that they aren’t subject to peer review, I don’t grasp what article’s findings have to do with Earth and the Sun’s red giant phase in any shape or form.

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