Don't get too attached to the universe. It won't be around much longer.
The universe will long outlast Earth. However, in the cosmic sense, it is slowly dying -- something scientists have believed to be the case since the 1990s, but recently confirmed in a new study.
A team of international researchers measured the energy output across a large portion of space and found that it was only half of what it was a mere 2 billion years ago.
And that decline will continue. In the simplest terms, the universe is not only burning out... it's also fading away.
"The universe will decline from here on in, sliding gently into old age," Simon Driver, leader of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, said in a news release. "The universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze."
All of the energy in the universe was created in the Big Bang, with some of that energy becoming mass. Stars convert mass back into energy, and that output is what the GAMA study examined in more than 200,000 galaxies across 21 wavelengths, from ultraviolet to far infrared, according to the European Southern Observatory.
“While most of the energy sloshing around in the universe arose in the aftermath of the Big Bang, additional energy is constantly being generated by stars as they fuse elements like hydrogen and helium together,” Driver said. “This new energy is either absorbed by dust as it travels through the host galaxy, or escapes into intergalactic space and travels until it hits something, such as another star, a planet, or, very occasionally, a telescope mirror.”
Driver's team at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia put together an oddly soothing video (above) explaining the project and the slow decline of the universe.
“Just as we all become less active in our old age, the same is happening to the universe, and it’s well past its prime,” Luke Davies, a member of the ICRAR research team, said in the video.
The universe itself won't die so much as slip into an eternal old age.
“It will just grow old forever, slowly converting less and less mass into energy as billions of years pass by," Davies said in the clip. "Until eventually it will become a cold, dark, and desolate place where all of the lights go out.”
Driver presented the findings on Monday at the International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly in Honolulu. The research has also been submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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