Is the Universe Dying?


Is time eternal? Was there a beginning? Will
there be an end? We’ll never really know. But for the part of the universe we can see
and measure, the answers are becoming starkly clear. The universe is filled with clocks… cosmic
timepieces that are ticking down the tiniest moments, the epochs, the grand eras of creation. They are the stars… from tiny cool dwarfs
not much larger than some planets… all the way up to hot giants hundreds of times the
size of our sun. We now live in what’s known as the stellar
era. Most of the energy given off in our universe comes from stars in the process of being born…
of shining… and dying. When the last populations of stars eventually
die out… this grand luminous era will fade into the recesses of infinity. But how quickly? A large international collaboration, the Galaxy
and Mass Assembly project, has now documented this process in action. Working with telescopes around the world and
in space, they surveyed large regions of the sky, 200,000 galaxies in all, in wavelengths
from ultraviolet to far infrared. The object was to measure the energy output
of galaxies… to find out how overall rates star birth and death have changed over time. They concluded that galaxies in the aggregate
are emitting half the energy they did two billion years ago. The stellar age is still expected to last
for trillions of years more. The fact is, everything in our universe has
a timer… from the grandest galaxy clusters… down to our Milky Way… our Sun… our Earth….
even the atoms that once were assembled in stars. The universe as we know it is indeed dying…
and we are but a blip in the incomprehensible sweep of deep time.

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