How Long Would We Have to Live if the Sun Went Out?

Your alarm clock goes off. You rise, stretch and look out the window. Ah, another bright and sunny morning. You’re walking the dog when all of a sudden,
it goes dark, poof!–like God turned off a gigantic light switch. You look up into the sky, you can see a few
distant stars, but the sun is gone. The automatic street lights come on as you
rush home. What’s going on? Reports on the internet and TV seem to indicate
that the sun’s burned out. But that couldn’t happen, right? The sun couldn’t suddenly extinguish, could
it? What would happen to humanity if it did? How long could we survive if the sun went
out? There have been a couple of times throughout
history where natural phenomena has affected the sun’s ability to reach and warm the
earth. Notably, this happened in 1816 which became
widely known as ‘The Year Without A Summer’. On April 10, 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia
erupted spewing an estimated 9.8 cubic miles (41 cubic kilometres) or 10 billion tonnes
of pyroclastic ash into the atmosphere along with several gases including carbon dioxide,
sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen chloride. Ultimately the volcanic eruption caused severe
climate abnormalities for the next few years including limited sun and a lack of summer
in the Northern Hemisphere in 1816. In New England, there were several large snow
falls in June. Lakes stayed iced over for the entire year
in parts of Pennsylvania. Salem, Massachusetts had triple digits in
early July, but on the 4th of July reports indicate that the temperature fell into the
30s and 40s. In August a hard freeze dominated New Hampshire
and Maine. The temperature fluctuations were detrimental
to crops around the world and ultimately caused famine in many regions. Famine led to disease and a cholera epidemic,
killing millions. Mass migration happened as people tried to
escape food shortages. The Year without a Summer also led to religious
revivals as apocalyptic preachers thought the world was ending and urged people to get
right with God. The surface of the Sun is an astounding 5,800
Kelvin, hot enough to melt or vaporize any substance known to man including diamond or
graphene. Thankfully earth is rough 93 million miles
(150 million km) away from the sun, where the temperatures are much cooler. The sun is just far away enough from earth
to create ideal temperatures for supporting life. Scientifically, the sun wouldn’t just stop
burning and go out. When stars die, they expand. Most likely, the sun will expand into a into
a red giant star, and vaporize the inner planets of our solar system including the earth as
it collapses and dies. However, the sun evolving into a red giant
star will take 7 or 8 billion years, so don’t worry too much about this happening. However, let’s pretend that the sun suddenly
just disappeared. Citizens of earth actually wouldn’t know
what happened for a few minutes because the last of the sun’s rays would still be on
their way to our planet. Depending on where the earth is in its orbit,
at the speed of light, which is roughly 671,000,000 miles per hour (1,080,000,000
km/hour), light from the sun reaches earth in just under 8 and a half minutes. So if the sun suddenly disappeared, it would
be 8 and a half minutes before the earth went dark. After that depending on where you are in the
world, you would be able to see the moon and the planets in our solar system for the next
several hours, until the residual sunlight stopped reflecting. The sky would definitely be darker than normal,
because we’re use to ambient light coming from the moon. Distant stars would continue to shine and
we would continue to have man made light as electricity would continue to work…for a
while. The earth would immediately begin to cool. Within about a week of the sun vanishing,
earth’s average surface temperature would drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius). After a year without sun, the temperature
would be negative 150 degrees Fahrenheit (-101 Celsius). Over time the earth would become an ice planet,
rivers, lakes and the oceans would freeze on the surface. Depending on depth, the water underneath would
continue to remain liquid for thousands of years, insulated by the surface ice. Just as much of a problem as the cold, is
that crops, in fact most plant life would rapidly die. Without the sun, photosynthesis would immediately
cease. The majority of plants would be dead within
a few weeks. Large healthy trees could possibly survive
for several decades without photosynthesis, due to slow metabolism and substantial sugar
stores. However that assumes that the trees wouldn’t
be decimated for food or kindling Plants are autotrophs or primary producers
in the food chain so as they die off, herbivores would quickly follow. Then they would be followed by carnivores. Scavengers, assuming they could survive within
the cold would hang on a little longer. Another problem if the sun suddenly vanished
is that it would disrupt the orbits of the heavenly bodies in our solar system. The sun’s gravitational mass controls orbit;
everything: planets, passing comets, etcetera would now continue their forward velocity
in a straight line, heading off into space. That means for the earth we’d move towards
distant stars at 67,000 mph 107,826 km/ph). Theoretically earth could get caught in the
gravitational pull of another star and begin orbiting it. However, that’s a process that would take
several thousand years. Now that you have a sense of some of the underlying
issues that would occur in the long run, let’s return to our scenario from the beginning. You rush home from walking the dog because
the sun suddenly vanishes. Within the first 24 hours widespread panic
has ensued, social upheaval is happening and society is breaking down. Immediately after the sun winks out, the media
and internet will flood with a bazillion theories as to what’s happening and why. It’s the end of the world. God has forsaken us. Aliens have destroyed or blocked our sun. North Korea or Russia or whichever enemy country
has killed the sun! It won’t take long before people begin to
loot and riot. Sure governments will attempt to implement
martial law and to keep control, but within a few days everyone, everywhere will be severely
affected by the cold, if not already dead from it. Warmer regions will maintain higher temperatures
longer, but the residents will be even less prepared for the cold as their manner of dress
and housing is often designed to maximize cooling. Extremely cold climates such as the Arctic
will rapidly become unbearable. If the sun vanishes while it’s winter in
the Northern Hemisphere, humans and other life dying off would accelerate. As the poles of the earth cooled, the overall
atmospheric height would begin to drop as density grew. As the atmosphere drops, strong winds would
begin to blow towards the equator worldwide. These winds would increasingly grow colder
and disrupt the jet stream, most likely creating strong currents at ground level. The water vapor in our atmosphere would condense
and it would snow in most regions of the world. Many places would be hit with blizzards. In addition to cold, wild weather, our atmosphere
would begin to separate into its component gasses by density. The higher density elements would drift to
ground level and the lower density gases would rise, thus disrupting the amount of breathable
air available. There’s also the possibility that within
the first 24 hours of the sun disappearing a country would launch a nuclear weapon to
retaliate against another country they deemed responsible and start a nuclear war. Luckily no country started a nuclear war,
it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere and you were living on the west coast of the US
when the sun disappeared. Living near the ocean is helpful, as the water
will slow the surface cooling in your region. You were smart, you spent a few hours braving
the weather and other people to loot items that would help sustain your life such as
cold weather clothing, first aid supplies, fuel and non perishable food. After that, you and your family barricaded
yourselves in your house. Assuming your group can stay alive for the
next few days, the danger from other humans rapidly becomes far less of a problem as the
majority of the population dies off from hypothermia, starvation, hypoxia, or violence. The first to pass away with be the old, infirm
or very young. As society breaks down and people die, your
electricity stops working. In fact, as your town used solar powered street
lights, there’s been limited light from the start of this catastrophe. No electricity means no TV, internet and as
your house had electric heating, no heat. As people struggle to keep themselves warm
and resort to fire for light and heat, it’s possible that large swathes of cities could
end up burning as people’s fires get beyond their control. While the fires won’t accelerate because
of hot conditions, there’s too few people to try to put the fires out either. But your dwelling doesn’t catch fire. As you live slightly inland, thankfully you
weren’t inundated with coastal flooding due to the wild weather and tidal changes. Three days after the sun vanishes, your group
emerges out of hiding to a grotesque winter wonderland. Most of the population is dead, there’s
always the potential for violence, however most of the remaining survivors are willing
to work together. Your only chance for survival would be to
rapidly build an artificial temperature controlled habitat to live in.The best bet would be to
burrow into the earth and live deep underground. Away from tectonic plate boundaries, geothermal
temperature rises about 1°F per 70 feet of depth (25 °C per km of depth) in most of
the world. So if you were able to create a habitat roughly
a mile (1.6 km) underground, you could live at a balmy 75.5 °F (24.1 °C) degrees. That is assuming you could create and maintain
a society that had cooperative citizens, sustainable food sources and breathable air systems. Also you would need good artificial light
and possibly mood enhancers. Sunlight is a natural pick me up for humans. Other options might be to build a habitat
underwater near geothermal vents. If you lived in Iceland, you would probably
have a head start using geothermal energy to heat your habitat. So if the sun vanished, the majority of humanity
would perish in under a week. If you’re willing to prepare for this possibility
ahead of time by building an underground domain, you might be able to sustain the human race
by creating a Matrix like society of sad, pasty skin mole people. What’s the first action you would take to
survive if the sun suddenly vanished? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
called How Did A Whole Village Disappear? The Lost Colony of Roanoke Mystery! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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