Microbes to be ‘last survivors’ on future Earth

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The last surviving creatures on Earth will be tiny organisms living deep underground, according to scientists.


Researchers used a computer model to assess our planet's fate billions of years from now.

They found that as the Sun becomes hotter and brighter, only microbes would be able cope with the extreme conditions that the solar changes would bring.

The research is being presented at the National Astronomy Meeting.

Jack O'Malley James, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, said: "There won't be very much oxygen present, so they need to be able to survive in low or zero-oxygen environments, high pressures, and high salinities because of evaporating oceans."

Written By: Rebecca Morelle
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

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  1. @ OP Eventually as conditions worsen they too will vanish, and in about 2.8 billion years, Earth will be devoid of all life.

    That should be plenty of time to get space travel organised and colonise a few nearby star-systems.

    (Or deny global climate change, spend money on consumerism and wars instead of space, and boil early from a runaway greenhouse effect while stuck on Earth!)

    If we leave it late, the last chance options are:

    First, as the Sun heats, we need to move into the outer Solar System as it warms, look for new earth-type planets orbiting nearby stars, and then get ready for the grand merger of the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy -

    Andromeda on collision course with the Milky Wayhttp://www.nature.com/news/andromeda-on-collision-course-with-the-milky-way-1.10765

    It’s a definite hit. The Andromeda galaxy will collide with the Milky Way about 4 billion years from now, astronomers announced today. Although the Sun and other stars will remain intact, the titanic tumult is likely to shove the Solar System to the outskirts of the merged galaxies.

    Researchers came to that conclusion after using the Hubble Space Telescope between 2002 and 2010 to painstakingly track the motion of Andromeda as it inched along the sky. Andromeda, roughly 770,000 parsecs (2.5 million light years) away, is the nearest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way.

    . . . .which will probably present opportunities for hopping large numbers star-systems and planets.

    This video series of photo illustrations shows the predicted merger between our Milky Way galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, as it will unfold over the next several billion years. The sequence is inspired by dynamical computer modeling of the inevitable future collision between the two galaxies.
    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/20/video/c/

    There are comments on potential space travel on this discussion; http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/6/25/star-is-crowded-by-super-earths#

  2. Strongly recommend The Life and Death of Planet Earth (Ward, Brownlee) if you’re interested in such stuff. If the Sun is middle-aged life will ocntinue for billions of years yet but relitively speaking, the move towards a slimy rock is not far off.

    That should be plenty of time to get space travel organised and colonise a few nearby star-systems.

    it is plenty of time but don’t think for one minute you can expect more than afraction of a percent of that to be available to human life!

    Yeah, until our Sun goes Supernova and that will be the end of the Terran solar system, microbes included. Not trying to be a bummer, just seems inevitable

    not trying to be a bummer either but we don’t even get to put on a supernova with our little G-type.

    on the plus side, we will have sent bits of this planet far out towards other stars by the end. not many planets get to boast that i reckon

    • In reply to #5 by SaganTheCat:

      That should be plenty of time to get space travel organised and colonise a few nearby star-systems.
      

      it is plenty of time but don’t think for one minute you can expect more than afraction of a percent of that to be available to human life!

      And let’s not forget that even “nearby” star systems with inhabitable planets are likely to be veeeery far by our standards. Even assuming we will have developed highly advanced propulsion systems by then, it still is most likely take a spaceship tens of thousands of years to get there. Which in turn involves major technical headaches.

      We would have to build spaceships which would be sort of like miniature planets, each with its own atmosphere, magnetosphere, artificial gravity and a sustainable ecosystem. Perhaps one day, Douglas Adams’ idea of building planets won’t seem that facetious after all.

      • In reply to #6 by NearlyNakedApe:

        And let’s not forget that even “nearby” star systems with inhabitable planets are likely to be veeeery far by our standards. Even assuming we will have developed highly advanced propulsion systems by then, it still is most likely take a spaceship** tens of thousands of years to get there**. Which in turn involves major technical headaches.

        Not for nearby stars. we are talking tens or hundreds of years. Tens for each jump if we use planet-hopping to move between star systems.

        Alt Text (Right click and select “view image”)

        Plasma inside the VASIMR engine is constrained by the powerful coils of a superconducting magnet, a key technological breakthrough that binds the engine together by accelerating the super-heated plasma to produce propulsive force.

        The engine’s argon fuel first passes through the assembly’s first stage, where the gas is ionized as electrons are stripped from argon atoms. The first stage, also called the helicon section, heats the gas to about 10,000 Kelvin, or 17,540 degrees Fahrenheit, said Jared Squire, Ad Astra’s director of research.

        “It’s the same thing you do in a steam engine, where you first boil water to make steam,” Squire said. “You’re heating the gas, and that’s where the plasma is formed.”

        The VASIMR engine’s second stage applies more electromagnetic power to the plasma in a process called ion cyclotron heating. The plasma spills out of the engine nozzle at more than 110,000 mph. The exhaust can reach temperatures of up to 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit, according to Squire.

        Officials plan to work out the kinks in the technology before **launching flight engines to the International Space Station by 2014 for an orbital demo. Glover said the station tests will use two engines operating at 100 kilowatts. **
        http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1006/01vasimr/

        There are plans to further develop these engines to be powered by nuclear and later fusion reactors, and to use hydrogen extracted for orbiting ice sources as fuel.

        It is hoped to eventually reach better than 12% of light speed with this technology. It would, in the earlier stages be used for interplanetary travel within the Solar-System, and mining asteroids etc, for in-space manufacturing.

        http://www.space.com/17617-interstellar-spaceflight-100-year-starship.html

        http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/projects/project-icarus/

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