Red Giant Day
Tim Griffin

words & music by Tim Griffin 2024

There is a day a-comin’ when the mighty Sun
Will rise upon a smoking cinder of a day
When all its hydrogen has turned to helium
Along with other elements along the way
The Sun will change its color and increase diameter
Engulfing inner planets to astronomers’ dismay
It’s gonna hurt a lot when the Earth gets pretty hot
Upon that great red giant day.

There is a day a’comin’ when the Sun will run
Into the fundamental limit of its fuel
We knew the Sun was never gonna last forever
But a red giant isn’t very cool
The Sun is gonna grow and you should probably know
That when it blows its outer layers it will blow us all away
The forecast for that morning is for major global warming
On that great red giant day.

The sun will boil away our ocean and destroy our atmosphere
If there’s anywhere you want to be, it’s anywhere but here!

But there’s no need for cryin’ though there’s no denyin’
It will happen, but it won’t be very soon
Don’t want to cause confusion about nuclear fusion
‘Cause there’s fuel to keep on fusing until Friday afternoon…
(pause one measure)
That was just a joke, the Sun’s not gonna croak
For maybe five billion years and that’s a long, long time away!
Another thing that’s cool: you won’t have to school
Upon that great red giant day.

It slowly will expand and then completely cook our planet
Then will slowly shrink and morph from a giant to a dwarf
Upon that great red giant day.


I remember what a shock it was when I first read about the ultimate fate of our sun and its nearest planets. I was a kid who fixated on space, partly because of its immensity and permanence compared to my often chaotic life here on Earth. How disappointing to learn that nothing, not even our mighty sun, will last forever.

The good news is, we've got plenty of time. Teachers, if you use this song with your students please help them understand how huge a span of time we are talking about here. If there are still humans running around in five billion years, they may well have technology to travel to a cooler place. Or maybe (shoutout to my favorite science fiction writer, Larry Niven) people will just move the Earth a little further out from the sun, say into orbit around Jupiter. That's a mighty big leap of imagination, but a lot can happen in five billion years.

Also, note the NGSS astronomy standards for elementary and middle school focus on using patterns and predictions to understand how our solar system works now. This song is aimed at high school kids, who thrive on thoughts of mayhem and destruction anyway; so they may actually take some comfort in the knowledge that everything around them will one day be a smoking ruin. Or maybe just engulfed by the sun. The debate among astronomers is both unsettled and unsettling.

Here are some relevant academic content standards from the Next Generation Science Standards:
HS-PS1-8. Develop models to illustrate the changes in the composition of the nucleus of the atom and the energy released during the processes of fission, fusion, and radioactive decay.
HS-ESS1-1. Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the life span of the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core to release energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation.

Chords: E, B, A, F#