one good and one (very) bad

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When Goya painted the ‘Saturn devouring his children‘ on the worn walls of the Quinta del Sordo I was giving volume and color to an old mythological theme, yes; but, unknowingly, he was drawing an uncomfortable truth from our own Universe. Only it won’t be Saturn that devours us, it will be the Sun… the same complex and fascinating body that gave us life.


In recent days, the idea that the Sun would end up destroying the solar system has been in the media. And the truth is that everything points to yes, but that is only part of the story.

life of a star. It is often unavoidable not to think of the stars almost as if they were living beings. After all, like these, although in a strange order, stars are born, grow, die and reproduce. They were born, are born and will be born from the clouds of dust and gas that were responsible for scattering the Big Bang 14,000 million years ago.

Although each star is different and, as Juan Carlos Rodr√≠guez said, “each one has its own personality” they all follow more or less defined patterns. A curious one is that the longevity of each star is closely related to its mass. But despite what we might think, the largest stars last less: that is, they consume the hydrogen they have as fuel more quickly and deplete their energy sources in less time.

As the sun is a small star, it will end its days by expanding and transforming into a red giant, just afterwards expelling the outermost layers, giving rise to a cloud of gas known as a “planetary nebula” and becoming a white dwarf. What interests us now, however, is the red giant stage.

From clouds of dust and gas to black holes: this is how stars are born, grow, die and reproduce

The last breath of the giant. As I say, a red giant is a dying star that, in the process of thermally readjusting itself to allow the combustion of the remaining hydrogen, gets bigger and bigger, as if “seeking to recover the energy that it lost throughout its life”. It’s what experts call ‘planetary immersion’. Saturn devouring his children.

What does that mean? Well, yes, indeed, the Sun will engulf the Earth and the rest of the planets in the solar system. However, there is not much reason to worry: current mathematical models indicate that the sun has consumed approximately 50% of its fuel. As it is approximately 4,600 million years old, it is expected that another 5,000 million years will pass before for them to come for us. And this, clearly, is good news.

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When Goya painted the ‘Saturn devouring his children‘ on the worn walls of the Quinta del Sordo I was giving…

When Goya painted the ‘Saturn devouring his children‘ on the worn walls of the Quinta del Sordo I was giving…

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