The Fate of the Sun: Black Hole or White Dwarf?

In about 5 billion years, it’ll be time for the Sun to retire from its nuclear-fuel-burning life. As the Sun’s core runs out of fuel, it’ll start to shrink. This will cause the outer layers of the Sun to expand and cool. The Sun will become a red giant, and its outer layers will spread out, possibly engulfing the Earth.

But don’t despair! The Sun’s core will collapse into an incredibly dense state, leaving behind a stellar remnant. This remnant could be a white dwarf, a neutron star, or even a black hole.

So, will the sun become a black hole when it dies?

Well, short answer no. If you wanna know the interesting reason, keep reading.

You see, for a star to become a black hole, it needs a ton of mass. We’re talking at least 20 to 25 times the mass of our Sun. It’s a bit like trying to squeeze a watermelon into a grape’s skin – it just won’t work.

This mass threshold, known as the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit (say that five times fast), was first calculated by J. Robert Oppenheimer, yes, he is not just the Father of the atomic bomb. They realized that only really heavy stars have what it takes to collapse into black holes.

So, what’s the Sun’s destiny? Well, as it ages, it will swell up into a red giant, expanding to about the orbit of Mars. Earth might get a bit toasty, but it won’t get swallowed whole. Eventually, the Sun will shed its outer layers and become a white dwarf, not a black hole.

Black holes are born from massive stars that go through cycles of collapse and expansion, losing mass along the way. When they can’t take the pressure anymore (literally), they explode in a spectacular supernova and become black holes.

Now, typical black holes are several times heavier than the Sun, sometimes even up to 100 times its mass. But our Sun will never reach that heavyweight status. Instead, it’ll peacefully retire as a white dwarf, leaving Earth and the universe free from any black hole drama.

… unless of course the entire universe is already inside of one. More on that later!

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