An international team of scientists has observed a rare vibration of the star T Ursae Minoris (T UMi), which resembles our Sun but is older and near the end of its life is in the phase of the red giant.
"This was one of the rare occasions when the signs of aging in a star could be directly observed across the human timescale," said Meridith Joyce, astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU), in a press release.
The study that Joyce conducted with Hungarian astronomers was published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Joyce explains that T UMi and our Sun are more likely to end up in a kind of bloated burp than in a supernova blast. In billions of years, the sun will become a red giant, as T UMi is now. It will then expand into a glowing shell of gas, leaving behind a small faint star as its stellar corpse.
"It will be much larger as death approaches – it will eat Venus, Mercury and possibly the Earth – before it shrinks to become a white dwarf," she said.
T UMi is 3,000 light-years away and has been through a series of impulses for several million years as part of his transition from the Red Giant to the White Dwarf.
"These impulses cause drastic, rapid changes in the size and brightness of the star over centuries," explains Joyce, adding that the star has become measurably smaller, darker, and cooler over the past three decades. "We believe the star is entering one of its last remaining impulses and we would expect it to expand again in our lives."
It's not quite as dramatic as a supernova explosion, but it's still interesting to see an end that will eventually hit our own home. Unless we can, of course, upload all of us to the cloud and ship the servers toor anywhere else in the galaxy.