Caltech Question of the Month: If the sun ceased to exist right now, how long would mankind survive?" Would the oceans freeze?

Question: If the sun ceased to exist right now, how long would mankind survive?" Would the oceans freeze?

Submitted by Joseph Canale, La Crescenta.

Answered by Dave Stevenson, George Van Osdol Professor of Planetary Science, Caltech.

The sun provides more than just energy, it provides the gravitational force that keeps us in orbit. But I interpret the question to mean "What if the sun stopped shining?"

Many life-bearing planets could exist in interstellar space, according to Caltech planetary science professor

Long ago in a solar system not at all far away, there could have existed about five to 10 Earth-like planets in Jupiter-crossing orbits.

Lack of Energy Makes Life on Europa Unlikely, Caltech Study Concludes

A new study conducted by California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists shows that the Europan ocean is unlikely to harbor any life form more complex than single-celled organisms—and maybe not even that.

Earth's water probably didn't come from comets, Caltech researchers say

A new Caltech study of comet Hale-Bopp suggests that comets did not give Earth its water, buttressing other recent studies but contrary to the longstanding belief of many planetary scientists.

Anderson wins National Medal of Science

Don L. Anderson, a professor of geophysics at the California Institute of Technology, has been named a 1998 recipient of the National Medal of Science. The announcement was made at 2:45 p.m. EST today (December 8, 1998) at the White House by President Clinton.

New educational module on earthquakes now on-line

The ever-changing Earth and the forces that make it so are the theme of a new Web-based educational module from the Southern California Earthquake Center.

New study explains motions of the Emerson fault in the years following the Landers earthquake

For geophysicists, the 7.3–magnitude Landers earthquake of June 28, 1992 has yielded much in terms of understanding the basic mechanisms of seismic events. A new study appearing in this week's Science provides a new model to explain why the ground near the fault gradually shifted the first few years after the main shock. The work could be used in the future for the analysis of earthquake hazard.

Galileo data shows Jupiter's lightning associated with low-pressure regions

Images of Jupiter's night side taken by the Galileo spacecraft reveal that the planet's lightning is controlled by the large-scale atmospheric circulation and is associated with low-pressure regions.

Crust of Tibetan Plateau is being squeezed by India and Asia, new study shows

Geophysicists have discovered why there are high plains and mountains in the Himalayas for trekkers to trek on. According to new data, the soft crust of the Tibetan Plateau is being squeezed like an accordion between the harder crusts of India and Asia.

Spring Colloquium 98: Mars Exploration—Past, Present, and Future

PASADENA—The San Gabriel Valley Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics will present "Spring Colloquium 98: Mars Exploration—Past, Present, and Future" on Tuesday, June 9, from 6–9:30 p.m. in von Karman Auditorium at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena. This year's program will provide a comprehensive overview of America's past, present, and potential future Mars exploration missions. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.


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