Life WITHOUT the sun

What sort of chaotic consequences would arise if the Sun was to disappear tomorrow? Could humanity survive? Follow this timeline to find out…

Eight minutes

Plunged into darkness

As light travels at a finite speed, people on Earth wouldn’t notice the Sun’s disappearance for the first eight minutes. At this point, all sunlight would vanish, making it night-time all the time.

Eight minutes

Loss of attraction

Imagine Earth flies around the Sun like a ball is swung around on a string – if the defining, central mass were to vanish, it would be as if the string was cut. Earth and all the other objects in our Solar System would no longer orbit anything and would continue along a straight trajectory.

Eight minutes

Losing sight of the Moon

The Moon would become invisible to us as there would be no sunlight reflecting off it. The same concept would apply to other objects in the Solar System, including planets, meaning only distant stars would be visible with the naked eye.

One week

Freezing temperatures

Within a week temperatures would fall to -18 degrees Celsius without the external heat source of the Sun. This would continuously drop and the majority of life could not be supported.

Few weeks

Killing of plant life

Sunlight is key for photosynthesis, the process that generates breathable oxygen. Although the current supply of oxygen is enough to last a thousand years or so, plant life will not be able to survive in these dark conditions.

Few weeks

Survival of the fittest

The complications that all these effects would have on animals would be extremely noticeable. It is predicted that the food chain would change, with weaker animals dying off first and natural scavengers lasting a little longer.

One month

Humanity’s escape plan

At this point, it would be make or break for humanity. The only options for survival are to build bunkers as close to the core as possible – surviving off internal radiated heat – or head to a different planet with more habitable conditions.

Two months

Oceans freeze over

The temperature drop would eventually cause all global water to freeze over, turning Earth’s seas into ice rinks. While the ocean surfaces would freeze, the depths could remain liquid due to the internal heat of the rogue Earth’s core.


Large trees left

A lack of sunlight will have wiped out all smaller plants by now, but the larger trees would still survive for a few decades without the need to photosynthesise. This is due to their slower metabolisms and large sugar storage capacities.

1,000 years

Insulated oceans

The large majority of the oceans would continue to freeze over as temperatures begin to stabilise at -240 degrees Celsius. Ironically, the ice layer provides valuable insulation that can keep the deeper ocean from freezing over for hundreds of thousands of years.

1,000 years

Atmospheric collapse

At these outrageously cold temperatures it is most likely that our atmosphere will freeze as well and collapse to the surface, opening Earth up to the harmful rays of the cosmos and, most likely, meteor impacts. 

Millions of years

Stumbling across a replacement star

Depending on the initial trajectory of Earth, it is possible that the rogue planet could eventually come across a distant star and its atmosphere and oceans could thaw, possibly bringing back some of Earth’s ancient habitable characteristics.

This article was originally published in How It Works issue 117, written by Lee Cavendish 

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