LIFE FROM A STAR’S DEATH
Across the cosmos, there is ever a circle of a life and death as new stars are born whilst others end their extensive lives in a spectacular array of power. Even in death, however, opportunities for life are born.
As old stars near their next stage in life, they begin to expand outward, growing larger and attaining a greater temperature than their previous phase. In less than five billion years, our sun will go through the same cycle. Known as red giants, these stars greatly alter the appearance of their solar system due to their loss of mass. Without the gravity they had experienced before, its planets shift outward, seeming to make room for the expanding giant. Nonetheless, if they are close enough to the star, they are slowly pulled back in due to the tidal forces between the two celestial bodies. Rock planets, but mostly gaseous planets like Jupiter and Saturn will be the victims of these forces.
Although red giants cause an apocalypse for many planets, they also introduce others to regions in which life could exist and thrive for hundreds of millions of years. The area possible for life to flourish will expand even as the star does itself. Planets and even moons that were once frigid wastelands are thawed out into lush worlds full of oceans and forests. These planets are known as second generation planets. Examples of such bodies can be seen right in our own solar system, such as the frozen moons of Jupiter, and even our own moon, which has enough frozen water to perhaps re-fill its dried out seas.
In other instances, older stars can form brand new planets from excess dust ejected from the dying star. The chunks of material eventually gather together, forming anywhere from one to several planets orbiting the star, some very likely to be situated inside the “habitable zone” for the generation of life. If life did indeed spring up from these new planets, it could take less than a billion years to form, making it all the more...