What Would Happen If The Sun Disappeared?

If the sun suddenly blinked out of existence, you'd have nothing to worry about.—for the first eight minutes, anyway. After that, all hell would likely break loose. Still, it wouldn't be the instantaneous end to life on Earth that you might think.

Related: This Is How Soon You'd Die Around The Solar System

Solar system with no sun.

When The Lights Go Down

Light takes roughly eight minutes to reach Earth from the sun. For that reason, if the sun disappeared, we'd still see it in the sky for another eight minutes. But what about gravity? The sun is the anchor point of the solar system—at 333,000 times the mass of Earth, it exerts a hefty pull that keeps the planets locked in their orbits. If all that gravitational force disappeared, it would still take us eight minutes to feel it. That's because, according to Einstein's theory of relativity, gravity travels at the same speed as light. So go ahead, watch the rest of that Netflix episode. You'll be golden for another eight minutes.

Related: The Size Of The Sun

Chaos Creeps In Slowly

After that, though, Earth still wouldn't be snuffed out. Electricity would still work, and it would still take up to an hour for the light from our planets to be reflected back to Earth, so there would be a peaceful glow in the sky. With no sunlight, photosynthesis would stop, but that would only kill some of the plants—there are some larger trees that can survive for decades without it. Within a few days, however, the temperatures would begin to drop, and any humans left on the planet's surface would die soon after. Within two months, the ocean's surface would freeze over, but it would take another thousand years for our seas to freeze solid. By then, however, the atmosphere would collapse, radiation would seep in, and Earth would be an inhospitable wasteland drifting aimlessly through space. Lucky for you, the sun is showing no signs of disappearing any time soon.

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Watch And Learn: The Most Fascinating Content About The Sun Disappearing

What If The Sun Disappeared?

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What Would Happen If The Sun Disappeared?

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Gravity waves travel at the speed of light. 00:26

  2. If the sun disappeared and released Earth from its orbit, Earth would travel at 30 km/s into space. 01:32

  3. In the sun's absence, the Earth would take thousands of years to radiate its heat completely off. 02:18

The Future Of Our Sun And Earth

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Written by Curiosity Staff October 23, 2015