Timeline of the far future

12 hours ago
Albert Flores

While the future cannot be predicted with certainty, present understanding in various scientific fields allows for the prediction of some far-future events, if only in the broadest outline. These fields include astrophysics, which studies how planets and stars form, interact, and die; particle physics, which has revealed how matter behaves at the smallest scales; evolutionary biology, which studies how life evolves over time; plate tectonics, which shows how continents shift over millennia; and sociology, which examines how human societies and cultures evolve.

The far future begins after the current millennium comes to an end, starting with the 4th millennium in 3001 CE, until the furthest reaches of future time. These timelines include alternative future events that address unresolved scientific questions, such as whether humans will become extinct, whether protons decay, and whether the Earth survives when the Sun expands to become a red giant.




Astronomy and astrophysics
Geology and planetary science
Particle physics
Technology and culture

Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe

All projections of the future of Earth, the Solar System, and the universe must account for the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy, or a loss of the energy available to do work, must rise over time. Stars will eventually exhaust their supply of hydrogen fuel and burn out. +more The Sun will likely expand sufficiently to overwhelm many of the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, possibly Earth), but not the giant planets, including Jupiter and Saturn. Afterwards, the Sun would be reduced to the size of a white dwarf, and the outer planets and their moons would continue orbiting this diminutive solar remnant. This future situation may be similar to the white dwarf star MOA-2010-BLG-477L and the Jupiter-sized exoplanet orbiting it.

Long after the death of the solar system, physicists expect that matter itself will eventually disintegrate under the influence of radioactive decay, as even the most stable materials break apart into subatomic particles. Current data suggest that the universe has a flat geometry (or very close to flat), and thus will not collapse in on itself after a finite time. +more This infinite future allows for the occurrence of even massively improbable events, such as the formation of Boltzmann brains.

Years from nowEvent
1,000Due to the lunar tides decelerating the Earth's rotation, the average length of a solar day will be 1/30 SI second longer than it is today. To compensate, either a leap second will have to be added to the end of a day multiple times during each month, or one or more consecutive leap seconds will have to be added at the end of some or all months. +more
1,100As Earth's poles precess, Gamma Cephei replaces Polaris as the northern pole star.
10,000If a failure of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin "ice plug" in the next few centuries were to endanger the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, it would take up to this long to melt completely. Sea levels would rise 3 to 4 metres. One of the potential long-term effects of global warming, this is separate from the shorter-term threat to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
10,000The red supergiant star Antares will likely have exploded in a supernova. The explosion should be easily visible on Earth in daylight.
11,700As Earth's poles precess, Vega, the fifth brightest star in the sky, becomes the northern pole star. Although Earth cycles through many different naked eye northern pole stars, Vega is the brightest.
11,000-15,000By this point, halfway through Earth's precessional cycle, Earth's axial tilt will reverse, causing summer and winter to occur on opposite sides of Earth's orbit. This means that the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere will be less extreme than they are today, as it will be facing away from the Sun at Earth's perihelion and towards the Sun at aphelion, while the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, which experiences more pronounced seasonal variation due to a higher percentage of land, will be more extreme.
15,000According to the Sahara pump theory, the oscillating tilt of Earth's poles will move the North African Monsoon far enough north to change the Sahara's climate back into a tropical one such as it had 5,000-10,000 years ago.
17,000Best-guess recurrence rate for a "civilization-threatening" supervolcanic eruption large enough to spew one teratonne (one trillion tonnes) of pyroclastic material.
25,000Mars' northern polar ice cap could recede as Mars reaches a warming peak of the northern hemisphere during the c. 50,000-year perihelion precession aspect of its Milankovitch cycle.
36,000The small red dwarf Ross 248 will pass within 3. 024 light-years of Earth, becoming the closest star to the Sun. It will recede after about 8,000 years, making first Alpha Centauri (again) and then Gliese 445 the nearest stars (see timeline).
50,000According to Berger and Loutre (2002), the current interglacial period will end, sending the Earth back into a glacial period of the current ice age, regardless of the effects of anthropogenic global warming. However, according to more recent studies in 2016, anthropogenic climate change, if left unchecked, may delay this otherwise expected glacial period by as much as an additional 50,000 years, potentially skipping it entirely. Niagara Falls will have eroded the remaining 32 km to Lake Erie, and will therefore cease to exist. The many glacial lakes of the Canadian Shield will have been erased by post-glacial rebound and erosion.
50,000Due to lunar tides decelerating the Earth's rotation, a day on Earth is expected to be one SI second longer than it is today. In order to compensate, either a leap second will have to be added to the end of every day, or the length of the day will have to be officially lengthened by one SI second.
100,000The proper motion of stars across the celestial sphere, which results from their movement through the Milky Way, renders many of the constellations unrecognizable.
100,000The red hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris will likely have exploded in a supernova.
100,000Native North American earthworms, such as Megascolecidae, will have naturally spread north through the United States Upper Midwest to the Canada-US border, recovering from the Laurentide Ice Sheet glaciation (38°N to 49°N), assuming a migration rate of 10 metres per year. (However, humans have already introduced non-native invasive earthworms of North America on a much shorter timescale, causing a shock to the regional ecosystem. )
> 100,000As one of the long-term effects of global warming, 10% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide will still remain in a stabilized atmosphere.
250,000Kamaʻehuakanaloa (formerly Lōihi), the youngest volcano in the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, will rise above the surface of the ocean and become a new volcanic island.
300,000At some point in the next few hundred thousand years, the Wolf-Rayet star WR 104 may explode in a supernova. There is a small chance WR 104 is spinning fast enough to produce a gamma-ray burst, and an even smaller chance that such a GRB could pose a threat to life on Earth.
500,000Earth will likely have been hit by an asteroid of roughly 1 km in diameter, assuming that it cannot be averted.
500,000The rugged terrain of Badlands National Park in South Dakota will have eroded completely.
1 millionMeteor Crater, a large impact crater in Arizona considered the "freshest" of its kind, will have worn away.
1 millionHighest estimated time until the red supergiant star Betelgeuse explodes in a supernova. For at least a few months, the supernova will be visible on Earth in daylight. Studies suggest this supernova will occur within a million years, and perhaps even as soon as within the next 100,000 years. Desdemona and Cressida, moons of Uranus, will likely have collided.
1. 28 ± 0. 05 millionThe star Gliese 710 will pass as close as 0. 0676 parsecs-0 ly to the Sun before moving away. This will gravitationally perturb members of the Oort cloud, a halo of icy bodies orbiting at the edge of the Solar System, thereafter raising the likelihood of a cometary impact in the inner Solar System.
2 millionEstimated time for the full recovery of coral reef ecosystems from human-caused ocean acidification if such acidification goes unchecked; the recovery of marine ecosystems after the acidification event that occurred about 65 million years ago took a similar length of time.
2 million+The Grand Canyon will erode further, deepening slightly, but principally widening into a broad valley surrounding the Colorado River.
2. 7 millionAverage orbital half-life of current centaurs, that are unstable because of gravitational interaction of the several outer planets. See predictions for notable centaurs.
3 millionDue to tidal deceleration gradually slowing down Earth's rotation, a day on Earth is expected to be one minute longer than it is today.
10 millionThe Red Sea will flood the widening East African Rift valley, causing a new ocean basin to divide the continent of Africa and the African Plate into the newly formed Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate. The Indian Plate will advance into Tibet by . Nepal's territory, whose boundaries are defined by the Himalayan peaks and on the plains of India, will cease to exist.
10 millionEstimated time for full recovery of biodiversity after a potential Holocene extinction, if it were on the scale of the five previous major extinction events. Even without a mass extinction, by this time most current species will have disappeared through the background extinction rate, with many clades gradually evolving into new forms.
10 million-1 billionCupid and Belinda, moons of Uranus, will likely have collided.
50 millionMaximum estimated time before the moon Phobos collides with Mars.
50 millionAccording to Christopher R. Scotese, the movement of the San Andreas Fault will cause the Gulf of California to flood into the Central Valley. This will form a new inland sea on the West Coast of North America, causing the current locations of Los Angeles and San Francisco to merge. The Californian coast will begin to be subducted into the Aleutian Trench. Africa's collision with Eurasia will close the Mediterranean Basin and create a mountain range similar to the Himalayas. The Appalachian Mountains peaks will largely wear away, weathering at 5. 7 Bubnoff units, although topography will actually rise as regional valleys deepen at twice this rate.
50-60 millionThe Canadian Rockies will wear away to a plain, assuming a rate of 60 Bubnoff units. The Southern Rockies in the United States are eroding at a somewhat slower rate.
50-400 millionEstimated time for Earth to naturally replenish its fossil fuel reserves.
80 millionThe Big Island will have become the last of the current Hawaiian Islands to sink beneath the surface of the ocean, while a more recently formed chain of "new Hawaiian Islands" will then have emerged in their place.
100 millionEarth will likely have been hit by an asteroid comparable in size to the one that triggered the K-Pg extinction 66 million years ago, assuming this cannot be averted.
100 millionAccording to the Pangaea Proxima Model created by Christopher R. Scotese, a new subduction zone will open in the Atlantic Ocean and the Americas will begin to converge back toward Africa. Upper estimate for lifespan of the rings of Saturn in their current state.
110 millionThe Sun's luminosity will have increased by 1%.
180 millionDue to the gradual slowing down of Earth's rotation, a day on Earth will be one hour longer than it is today.
230 millionPrediction of the orbits of the planets is impossible over time spans greater than this, due to the limitations of Lyapunov time.
240 millionFrom its present position, the Solar System completes one full orbit of the Galactic Center.
250 millionAccording to Christopher R. Scotese, due to the northward movement of the West Coast of North America, the coast of California will collide with Alaska.
250-350 millionAll the continents on Earth may fuse into a supercontinent. Four potential arrangements of this configuration have been dubbed Amasia, Novopangaea, Pangaea Proxima, and Aurica. This will likely result in a glacial period, lowering sea levels and increasing oxygen levels, further lowering global temperatures.
> 250 millionRapid biological evolution may occur due to the formation of a supercontinent causing lower temperatures and higher oxygen levels. Increased competition between species due to the formation of a supercontinent, increased volcanic activity and less hospitable conditions due to global warming from a brighter Sun could result in a mass extinction event from which plant and animal life may not fully recover.
300 millionDue to a shift in the equatorial Hadley cells to roughly 40° north and south, the amount of arid land will increase by 25%.
300-600 millionEstimated time for Venus's mantle temperature to reach its maximum. Then, over a period of about 100 million years, major subduction occurs and the crust is recycled.
350 millionAccording to the extroversion model first developed by Paul F. Hoffman, subduction ceases in the Pacific Ocean Basin.
400-500 millionThe supercontinent (Pangaea Ultima, Novopangaea, Amasia, or Aurica) will likely have rifted apart. This will likely result in higher global temperatures, similar to the Cretaceous period.
500 millionEstimated time until a gamma-ray burst, or massive, hyperenergetic supernova, occurs within 6,500 light-years of Earth; close enough for its rays to affect Earth's ozone layer and potentially trigger a mass extinction, assuming the hypothesis is correct that a previous such explosion triggered the Ordovician-Silurian extinction event. However, the supernova would have to be precisely oriented relative to Earth to have any such effect.
600 millionTidal acceleration moves the Moon far enough from Earth that total solar eclipses are no longer possible.
500-600 millionThe Sun's increasing luminosity begins to disrupt the carbonate-silicate cycle; higher luminosity increases weathering of surface rocks, which traps carbon dioxide in the ground as carbonate. As water evaporates from the Earth's surface, rocks harden, causing plate tectonics to slow and eventually stop once the oceans evaporate completely. With less volcanism to recycle carbon into the Earth's atmosphere, carbon dioxide levels begin to fall. By this time, carbon dioxide levels will fall to the point at which photosynthesis is no longer possible. All plants that utilize photosynthesis (≈99 percent of present-day species) will die. The extinction of plant life is likely to be a long-term decline rather than a sharp drop.

Humanity and human constructs

To date five spacecraft (Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and New Horizons) are on trajectories which will take them out of the Solar System and into interstellar space. Barring an extremely unlikely collision with some object, the craft should persist indefinitely.

Date or years from nowEvent
1,000The SNAP-10A nuclear satellite, launched in 1965 to an orbit above Earth, will return to the surface.
3183 CEThe Time Pyramid, a public art work started in 1993 at Wemding, Germany, is scheduled for completion. +more
2,000Maximum lifespan of the data films in Arctic World Archive, a repository which contains code of open source projects on GitHub along with other data of historical interests, if stored in optimum conditions.
6939 CEThe Westinghouse Time Capsules from the years 1939 and 1964 are scheduled to be opened.
6970 CEThe last Expo '70 Time Capsule from the year 1970, buried under a monument near Osaka Castle, Japan is scheduled to be opened.
28 May 8113 CEThe Crypt of Civilization, a time capsule located at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, is scheduled to be opened after being sealed before World War II.
10,000The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, for nuclear weapons waste, is planned to be protected until this time, with a "Permanent Marker" system designed to warn off visitors through both multiple languages (the six UN languages and Navajo) and through pictograms. The Human Interference Task Force has provided the theoretical basis for United States plans for future nuclear semiotics.
10,000Planned lifespan of the Long Now Foundation's several ongoing projects, including a 10,000-year clock known as the Clock of the Long Now, the Rosetta Project, and the Long Bet Project. Estimated lifespan of the HD-Rosetta analog disc, an ion beam-etched writing medium on nickel plate, a technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and later commercialized. (The Rosetta Project uses this technology, named after the Rosetta Stone. )
10,000Projected lifespan of Norway's Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
10,000Most probable estimated lifespan of technological civilization, according to Frank Drake's original formulation of the Drake equation.
10,000If globalization trends lead to panmixia, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized, as the effective population size will equal the actual population size.
10,000Humanity has a 95% probability of being extinct by this date, according to Brandon Carter's formulation of the controversial Doomsday argument, which argues that half of the humans who will ever have lived have probably already been born.
20,000According to the glottochronology linguistic model of Morris Swadesh, future languages should retain just 1 out of 100 "core vocabulary" words on their Swadesh list compared to that of their current progenitors.
24,000The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the area of Ukraine and Belarus left deserted by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, will return to normal levels of radiation.
24,110Half-life of plutonium-239.
25,000The Arecibo message, a collection of radio data transmitted on 16 November 1974, reaches the distance of its destination, the globular cluster Messier 13. This is the only interstellar radio message sent to such a distant region of the galaxy. There will be a 24-light-year shift in the cluster's position in the galaxy during the time it takes the message to reach it, but as the cluster is 168 light-years in diameter, the message will still reach its destination. Any reply will take at least another 25,000 years from the time of its transmission (assuming no faster-than-light communication).
14 September 30,828 CEMaximum system time for 64-bit NTFS-based Windows operating system.
33,800Pioneer 10 passes within 3. 4 light-years of Ross 248.
42,200Voyager 2 passes within 1. 7 light-years of Ross 248.
44,100Voyager 1 passes within 1. 8 light-years of Gliese 445.
46,600Pioneer 11 passes within 1. 9 light-years of Gliese 445.
50,000Estimated atmospheric lifetime of tetrafluoromethane, the most durable greenhouse gas.
50,000The KEO space time capsule, if it is launched, will reenter Earth's atmosphere.
90,300Pioneer 10 passes within 0. 76 light-years of HIP 117795.
100,000+Time required to terraform Mars with an oxygen-rich breathable atmosphere, using only plants with solar efficiency comparable to the biosphere currently found on Earth.
100,000 - 1 millionEstimated time by which humanity could colonize our Milky Way galaxy and become capable of harnessing all the energy of the galaxy, assuming a velocity of 10% the speed of light.
250,000The estimated minimum time at which the spent plutonium stored at New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant will cease to be radiologically lethal to humans.
13 September 275,760 CEMaximum system time for the JavaScript programming language.
492,300Voyager 1 passes within 1. 3 light-years of HD 28343.
1 millionEstimated lifespan of Memory of Mankind (MOM) self storage-style repository in Hallstatt salt mine in Austria, which stores information on inscribed tablets of stoneware. Planned lifespan of the Human Document Project being developed at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
1 millionCurrent glass objects in the environment will be decomposed. Various public monuments composed of hard granite will have eroded one metre, in a moderate climate, assuming a rate of 1 Bubnoff unit (1 mm in 1,000 years, or ≈1 inch in 25,000 years). Without maintenance, the Great Pyramid of Giza will erode into unrecognizability. On the Moon, Neil Armstrong's "one small step" footprint at Tranquility Base will erode by this time, along with those left by all twelve Apollo moonwalkers, due to the accumulated effects of space weathering. (Normal erosion processes active on Earth are not present due to the Moon's almost complete lack of atmosphere. )
1. 2 millionPioneer 11 comes within 3 light-years of Delta Scuti.
2 millionPioneer 10 passes near the bright star Aldebaran. '
2 millionVertebrate species separated for this long will generally undergo allopatric speciation. Evolutionary biologist James W. Valentine predicted that if humanity has been dispersed among genetically isolated space colonies over this time, the galaxy will host an evolutionary radiation of multiple human species with a "diversity of form and adaptation that would astound us". This would be a natural process of isolated populations, unrelated to potential deliberate genetic enhancement technologies.
4 millionPioneer 11 passes near one of the stars in the constellation Aquila.
7. 8 millionHumanity has a 95% probability of being extinct by this date, according to J. Richard Gott's formulation of the controversial Doomsday argument.
7. 2 millionWithout maintenance, Mount Rushmore will erode into unrecognizability.
8 millionMost probable lifespan of Pioneer 10 plaque, before the etching is destroyed by poorly understood interstellar erosion processes. The LAGEOS satellites' orbits will decay, and they will re-enter Earth's atmosphere, carrying with them a message to any far future descendants of humanity, and a map of the continents as they are expected to appear then.
100 millionMaximal estimated lifespan of technological civilization, according to Frank Drake's original formulation of the Drake equation.
100 millionFuture archaeologists should be able to identify an "Urban Stratum" of fossilized great coastal cities, mostly through the remains of underground infrastructure such as building foundations and utility tunnels.
1 billionEstimated lifespan of "Nanoshuttle memory device" using an iron nanoparticle moved as a molecular switch through a carbon nanotube, a technology developed at the University of California at Berkeley.
1 billionEstimated lifespan of the two Voyager Golden Records, before the information stored on them is rendered unrecoverable. Estimated time for an astroengineering project to alter the Earth's orbit, compensating for the Sun's rising brightness and outward migration of the habitable zone, accomplished by repeated asteroid gravity assists.
292,277,026,596 CE (292 billion)Numeric overflow in system time for 64-bit Unix systems.
1020 (100 quintillion)Estimated timescale for the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft to collide with a star (or stellar remnant).
- (30 quintillion - 3 sextillion)Estimated lifespan of "Superman memory crystal" data storage using femtosecond laser-etched nanostructures in glass, a technology developed at the University of Southampton, at an ambient temperature of 30 C.

Graphical timelines

For graphical, logarithmic timelines of these events see: * Graphical timeline of the universe (to 8 billion years from now) * Graphical timeline of the Stelliferous Era (to 1020 years from now) * Graphical timeline from Big Bang to Heat Death (to 101000 years from now)


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