Both the first and second time I viewed “Sunshine” I was entertained by how psychologically thrilling it was. I also appreciated the depictions of what life was like under extreme conditions in the outer universe. I would assume that if a human were to be consumed by the Sun, or if a human froze and shattered in outer space, it would appear similar to the film. While the science in the film looks visually legitimate, there is little evidence that any of the scenarios could ever happen, especially since the Sun will never be like it is portrayed in the film. The sun is dying, slowly going out, and earth has essentially frozen over. The purpose of the astronauts is to deliver the “payload”, the device carrying matter that will reignite the sun. Even though the state of the sun is clearly simple, there is little evidence that any scenario like it would ever occur.
One obvious misconception in the movie is that the sun, in a matter of decades, simply starts to die. This is far, far, from the truth in that the sun, while it shrinks and cools a tiny bit every second, is five billion years away from running out of hydrogen. Through nuclear fusion, the sun transfers hydrogen atoms into helium and each second, 400 million tons of hydrogen explode. While man will not be able to experience the dying of sun, we will definitely feel it long before the sun goes out. First and most obvious, the Sun is will become less heavy as it shrinks, but consequently its gravitational pull on Earth will loosen and the orbit of Earth and other planets will become wider. As a result it will get colder and in a few billion years the Earth will turn into an icy, permafrost planet similar to the one depicted in “Sunshine.”
Even if survival is possible after Earth essentially freezes over, life will see the Sun heat up once again. The Sun will eventually run out of hydrogen and nuclear reactions inside the Sun’s core will stop. Pressed together by gravity, the Sun will collapse. Temperatures will rise once again, nuclear reactions will be set off, and the Sun will start fusing helium into hydrogen and carbon. This will stop the Sun from collapsing. However, helium gives off much more energy than hydrogen did and the Sun will gradually expand out…eating up Mercury and Venus until it reaches Earth. Earth will slowly disintegrate, with rivers evaporating, polar ice melting causing oceans to rise and continents to be flooded before the seas finally dry up. Earth will be toasted before the solar surface even reaches the planet. While humans will not be around to witness the Sun swallowing Earth, the actual fate of the sun is just as intriguing as what was depicted in “Sunshine.”
Instead of a film based on the shrinking of the sun, a film based on the expansion of the Sun and the deadly effects of its heat would also make for a thrilling sci-fi. However, if humans can make it five billion years into the future, we will most likely be watching Earth burn up from other planets or starship a long ways off from our plant. Bottom line, I hope we can be just as smart in 5,00o million years as we apparently were in the few decades leading up to the Icharus crew having the ability to reignite the entire Sun.