The Universe is Dying (Albeit Slowly)

It can be argued that death is pretty much the only constant in the universe: from living organisms to entire galaxies, everything has an expiration date — including the universe itself.

This is the conclusion of the international Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, which presented its recent findings at an international astronomical gathering in Hawaii. As NPR reported:

“The universe will decline from here on in, sliding gently into old age,” said Simon Driver, a professor at the University of Western Australia who also leads the GAMA team. “The universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze,” Simon said in the statement.

Scientists have known for about two decades that the universe is fading. Using ground-based and space telescopes, the GAMA study aims to map and model all energy within a large portion of space to get a better understanding of how this is happening.

The GAMA research is the largest-ever multi-wavelength survey and includes energy output at 21 energy wavelengths, from the ultraviolet to the far infrared, according to the group.

What the researchers found is that the decline is seen across all wavelengths.

As NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce reported for All Things Considered, “that may be because the fuel needed to make stars and keep them going is just running out.”

“Once you’ve burned up all the fuel in the universe, essentially, that’s it,” says Joe Liske of the University of Hamburg, one of the members of the research team. “The stars die, like a fire dies, and then you have embers left over that then glow but eventually cool down. And the fire just goes out,” Liske told NPR.

As this is the most comprehensive study yet conducted on the universe, the finding “pretty much closes the case”, as one physicist and astronomer put it.

But not to worry: the universe still has several billion years ahead of it.

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