Here’s our solar system in a few billion years.

This is M27, the “Dumbbell Nebula,” about 1600 light-years away. It’s what’s called a planetary nebula – not because it has anything to do with planets, but because early observers confused them for planets.

In reality it’s far more interesting. This is what’s left over when a medium-sized star runs out of Hydrogen to fuse, blows up into a red giant, and then collapses into a dead, white dwarf star – leaving these gases behind. The red is Hydrogen, and the blue is Oxygen.

And this is very likely the fate of our own sun in a few billion years. It will swell up to engulf the Earth, melt Mars, and likely send the outer planets off into interstellar space. So, let’s make these next few billion years count!

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