On Earth, the stars seem to twinkle in the distance. It’s not just plain, ridiculously bright, though: To emit the light it does, it goes through a continuous process of nuclear fusion. This is the process by which the Sun’s hydrogen atoms combine to form helium atoms, the result of which is energy, heat, and light. Although our Sun has plenty of stores to continue doing this (it has been around for 4.5 billion years), the stores, and therefore its lifespan, are limited. This process, in addition, destroys the Sun in our aging solar system.

The Sun’s light, or brightness, is affected by its temperature. The same is added by the burning of hydrogen and the internal changes it brings. In short, the Sun being bright is bad news for us.

This increase in brightness is gradual. About every 110 million years, the Sun’s irradiance increases by about 1%, ET Wolf and OB Toon wrote in a December 2013 Research Letter titled “Delayed periods of runaway and wet Earth.” Although it doesn’t sound like much, the study explains, “Increased solar radiation should start the wet season and then run away, ending any hope of continuing to stay on the surface.” This settlement will last about 1.5 billion years, and so will the sea.

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