Our universe is slowly dying

Illustration of a spiral galaxy on a star field background.

The universe is slowly dying, according to researchers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia.

Scientists used seven of the world’s most powerful telescopes to observe 200,000 galaxies at 21 different wavelengths from the far ultraviolet to the far infrared.

They measured the energy generated across those galaxies and saw that it’s only half what it was 2 billion years ago.

The key message is: the universe is in decline but it will take a while before the end.

Initial observations were conducted using the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales and supporting data was collected by two orbiting space telescopes operated by NASA and another belonging to the European Space Agency.

The research is part of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, the largest multi-wavelength survey ever put together.

Simon Driver, from ICRAR in Western Australia who is presenting the findings today at the International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly in Honolulu, says the study set out to map and model all of the energy generated within a set volume of space.

All energy in the universe was created in the Big Bang with some locked up as mass. Stars shine by converting this mass into energy.

The fact that the universe is fading away has been known since the late 1990s but this work shows that it’s happening across all wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the infrared.

“The universe is fated to decline from here on in, like an old age that lasts forever,” Driver says. “The universe has basically plonked itself down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze.”

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