The Sun is the star at the centre of the Solar System – a perfect sphere of hot plasma that is the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Roughly three-quarters of its mass consists of hydrogen and the rest is mostly helium. Though it has not changed dramatically for more than four billion years, NASA scientists believe the Sun is roughly halfway through its life cycle.
It currently fuses about 600 million tonnes of hydrogen into helium every second, converting four million tonnes of matter into energy every second as a result.
However, Brian Cox warned during his BBC series “Empire of the Sun” what could happen in the future.
He said in 2010: “The Sun will spend most of its life on the main sequence, steadily burning its vast reserves of hydrogen fuel.
“This will last for at least another five billion years.
“But, eventually, the fuel will run out and its core will collapse.
“Then, something remarkable will happen, the Sun’s outer layer will expand and its colour will shift.
“Mercury will be little more than a memory as it’s engulfed by the expanding red Sun.”
Dr Cox explained how the Sun will expand to become a red giant and swallow everything in its path.
He added: “It will grow to 200 times its size today, stretching all the way out to the Earth’s orbit, where our own planet’s prospects are dim.
“The wonder that has remained so constant throughout all of its 10 billion years of life will end its days as a red giant.
He said earlier this year: “There is a solid link between carbon levels, especially carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and climate.
“Now it’s not always the carbon dioxide that causes the climate change to start with, but it’s either the first thing – that changing carbon dioxide up or down – that is very closely associated with massive climate change.
“So sometimes carbon dioxide changes ahead of time, so things like massive volcanism can cause warming.
“At other times, it can be other causes, like the Earth’s orbit can change its shape, it regularly does that in a predictable way, and then those changes from the Sun’s radiation causes a start in a shift towards warmer or colder
“Rapid climate change often leads to species not be able to adapt quick enough.”
Dr Schmidt then delivered a worrying verdict for life on Earth.
He continued: “If that goes above what we call the background extinction rate, we start seeing sort of the clear markers of mass extinction.
“There is the thought that at the moment the change is exceeding the rate at which species can adapt.
“It’s not like with the other mass extinctions, its more of a perfect storm of conditions not just one like climate change or an asteroid, but a host of things we have.
“It’s not just climate change induced by humans at the moment, but we have deforestation or urban sprawls or habitat fragmentation, things like that, which is stopping species from adapting at a fast enough rate.
“So it’s worrying to see where we are heading knowing what’s happened in the past.”