Saturday, March 24, 2007

What would happen to the planets if the Sun suddenly ceased to exist?

This clip is reproduced with added text-to-speech voice :

“”MPEG animation by Matthew Willson answering the common student question, "What happens if the Sun suddenly ceases to exist?" The traditional interpretation of general relativity says that can't happen because, at worst, the Sun turns to energy, but energy continues to gravitate. But the new physical interpretation of general relativity has no need to dodge the question. It gives the answer in the animation, which opens with the Sun represented by a dent in a rubber sheet, and Earth orbiting the Sun. We also see light from a distant star being bent by the Sun's potential field as it travels to Earth.

As Earth revolves, we pan down to view under the rubber sheet and see the Sun itself that caused the dent in the rubber sheet, an analog for the gravitational potential field. Suddenly, the Sun vanishes with a whoosh. Almost instantly, Earth ceases to orbit and takes off on the linear path tangent to its orbit when the Sun vanished. In the meantime, a giant gravitational wave is set off in the potential field (the rubber sheet) by the Sun's sudden absence. This wave travels outward at the speed of light. It has no effect on Earth because it is unconnected with ordinary gravitational force. But once the wave reached Earth's orbit, the light path of the star starts to unbend until the path is no longer curved and coincides with its straight line path from the star.

So the answer is that all the planets would depart in the directions they happened to be headed almost instantly. Then one by one, the planets would stop reflecting sunlight and become invisible as the last rays leaving the Sun before it ceased to exist reach each planet.”” -

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