Here's a thought-provoker:
Astronomers have discovered the very first confirmed planetary system that resembles the expected fate of our solar system, when the Sun reaches the end of its life in about five billion years.
The researchers detected the system using W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi; it consists of a Jupiter-like planet with a Jupiter-like orbit revolving around a white dwarf star located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
Back when I was 7 years old, I first read about that theory that even the Sun has a limited life-span.
We aren't used to thinking that way about the Sun. It's just there. A fixed constant. You know the Sun's always going to rise in the east and set in the west.
If you're living in the year Five Billion AD, maybe you don't want to bet on that.
The running theory is that main sequence stars, like ours, eventually run out of their stupendous fuel reserves and bloat up like any other burnt-out rock star.
Once that red giant phase happens, Earth's going to be orbiting well inside the Sun's new girth and Jupiter's moons will have new beachfront property.
The neat thing about this is nobody knows for sure if planets can survive the red giant phase. Now it looks like they can.
This is that kind of mind-blowing What If situation that makes for powerful science fiction stories.
What if an intelligent species survived this? What if they were around when their sun turned into a fat red slob and that motivated them to build a real off-world infrastructure?
What if they had to engineer their own bodies – and minds – to handle living in space? These could be some seriously creepy space-spiders or space-fish or something.
And it had to be near the galactic core, too. All kinds of crazy things happen in the core.
One of these days I'll write these stories. Dammit.
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