Our Dying Universe

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November 17, 2012 by Hermes

Our beautiful Milky Way

This is me taking a break from discussing Israel’s murderous excursion in Gaza, and what better place to turn to than the heavens?

A few days ago, I read an article that described how, according to David Sobral of Leiden University, of all the stars that our universe is expected to produce over the course of its indeterminate lifetime, only 5% remain as yet unborn. Then, in the comments section, which seems to have been hijacked by idiots (“I love the universe! I wanna go there some day.”), a link transfered me to another piece, this one an attempt to debunk Sobral’s theory. Ethan, who has his PhD in theoretical astrophysics from the University of Florida, explains how there is enough interstellar gas in the universe for stars to continue to form for trillions of years and that “if you sum up the total number of stars in our Universe’s future, it’s actually far greater than the number of stars that have already existed up until this point in time.” He contends that “the vast majority of stars that will ever call our galaxy home haven’t been born yet,” adding that Sobral is a good enough astronomer to know that.

Having only an unhealthy interest in all things space, I can’t say who has it right. And frankly, I find the debate inconsequential because neither of them contest the fact that there will come a point in time when the universe will run out of hydrogen atoms, the building blocks of life for all stars. That could take billions of years (Sobral) or trillions of years (Ethan), but it will happen, making our exponentially expanding universe a cold dark place, punctuated by wandering black holes and the lonely embers of neutron stars, among other magnificent structures.

If the Big Bang theory is correct, and there’s little reason to suspect that it isn’t given the overwhelming evidence in favor of it, the universe only created a finite amount of energy,

which, with the passage of time, converted to matter in the form a soup of hydrogen atoms,

which, with the cooling of the universe and the work of gravity, came together to form stars,

which, as they fuse lighter elements to form heavier ones in their cores, will sometimes meet their end in supernova explosions, spitting out elements like uranium and gold,

which do absolutely nothing for the process of star formation.

And so, a seemingly endless cycle will meet its end as we burn through our limited supply of fuel. We continue to march towards a time when the night’s sky will be a dark abyss, and frozen planets like Neptune will hurl through an otherwise quiet sea of electromagnetic radiation, looking for more massive objects to orbit.

Goddammit, this was supposed to make me feel better.

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