Mental Floss

The Sun Melts a Rock in an Experiment Simulating Earth's Future

Andrew LaSane

Billions of years from now when our dying Sun transforms into a red giant, the star will grow substantially larger and hotter. Mashable recently shared a video from the Science Channel's Space's Deepest Secrets series that focuses on how that will affect conditions here on Earth, and it is not pretty.

At the Odeillo Solar Furnace in France, the largest of its kind in the world, scientist Eva Villaver places a moist rock directly in the path of a beam of sunlight that has been magnified 3000 times. "The Earth is a rock floating around the Sun," Villaver explains in the video. "The temperature of the surface of Earth at that point will be at the order of 1400 degrees, enough to melt rock." In the experiment, the rock immediately begins to smoke when moved into position; later, a hole forms, and the rock is reduced to molten hot liquid. Earth's temperatures will continue to rise after its surface melts, according to video's narrator. Even at maximum magnification, the Odeillo solar furnace's 10,000 mirrors are not powerful enough to simulate what scientists believe will happen to Earth once the Sun becomes a red giant.

It's not exactly a silver lining, but scientists believe humanity will have gone extinct long before the Sun dies. So while the visual of melting rocks and a molten planet is terrifying, at least we won't be here to witness it. Head to Mashable to see what we will luckily be missing in the future.

[h/t Mashable]