The Sun’s current age, determined using computer models of stellar evolution and nucleocosmochronology, is thought to be about 4.57 billion years.
The Sun is about halfway through its main-sequence evolution, during which nuclear fusion reactions in its core fuse hydrogen into helium. Each second, more than 4 million tonnes of matter are converted into energy within the Sun’s core, producing neutrinos and solar radiation; at this rate, the Sun will have so far converted around 100 Earth-masses of matter into energy. The Sun will spend a total of approximately 10 billion years as a main sequence star.
The Sun does not have enough mass to explode as a supernova. Instead, in 4-5 billion years, it will enter a red giant phase, its outer layers expanding as the hydrogen fuel in the core is consumed and the core contracts and heats up. Helium fusion will begin when the core temperature reaches around 100 MK, and will produce carbon and oxygen. While it is likely that the expansion of the outer layers of the Sun will reach the current position of Earth’s orbit, recent research suggests that mass lost from the Sun earlier in its red giant phase will cause the Earth’s orbit to move further out, preventing it from being engulfed. However, Earth’s water will be boiled away and most of its atmosphere will escape into space.
Following the red giant phase, intense thermal pulsations will cause the Sun to throw off its outer layers, forming a planetary nebula. The only object that will remain after the outer layers are ejected is the extremely hot stellar core, which will slowly cool and fade as a white dwarf over many billions of years. This stellar evolution scenario is typical of low- to medium-mass stars.
In his famous work on Special Relativity in 1905, Albert Einstein predicted that when two clocks were brought together and synchronised, and then one was moved away and brought back, the clock which had undergone the traveling would be found to be lagging behind the clock which had stayed put. Einstein considered this to be a natural consequence of Special Relativity, not a paradox as some suggested, and in 1911, he restated and elaborated on this result in the following form:
If we placed a living organism in a box … one could arrange that the organism, after any arbitrary lengthy flight, could be returned to its original spot in a scarcely altered condition, while corresponding organisms which had remained in their original positions had already long since given way to new generations. For the moving organism the lengthy time of the journey was a mere instant, provided the motion took place with approximately the speed of light, (in Resnick and Halliday, 1992)
In 1911, Paul Langevin made this concept more vivid and comprehensible by his now-iconic story / thought experiment of the twins, one of whom is an astronaut and the other a homebody. The astronaut brother undertakes a long space journey in a rocket moving at almost the speed of light, while the other remains on Earth. When the traveling brother finally returns to Earth, it is discovered that he is younger than his sibling, that is to say, if the brothers had been carrying the clocks mentioned above, the astronaut’s clock would be found to be lagging behind the clock which had stayed with the Earth-bound brother, meaning that less time had elapsed for the astronaut than for the other. Langevin explained the different aging rates as follows: “Only the traveller has undergone an acceleration that changed the direction of his velocity’.
Think of a guitar string that has been tuned by stretching the string under tension across the guitar. Depending on how the string is plucked and how much tension is in the string, different musical notes will be created by the string. These musical notes could be said to be excitation modes of that guitar string under tension.
In a similar manner, in string theory, the elementary particles we observe in particle accelerators could be thought of as the “musical notes” or excitation modes of elementary strings.
In string theory, as in guitar playing, the string must be stretched under tension in order to become excited. However, the strings in string theory are floating in spacetime, they aren’t tied down to a guitar. Nonetheless, they have tension…