Is our universe slowly dying?


A new in-depth analysis led by an international team of researchers has measured the energy generated by more than 200,000 galaxies in a number of different wavelengths, in an effort to comprehensively and precisely assess the energy output of nearby regions of space.

Using several of the most powerful ground-based and space telescopes, astronomers looked at the energy output of each galaxy at 21 different wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to far infrared. This was part of the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) project – an effort that, according to the researchers, is “the largest multi-wavelength survey ever put together.”

The study authors, who presented their findings Monday at the International Astronomical Union XXIX General Assembly in Honolulu, Hawaii, discovered that the amount of energy produced in a section of the Universe today is about half of what it was two billion years ago, and the trend is taking place in all different wavelengths. In short, it appears that the universe is dying.

So is it time for the Universe to get its affairs in order?

Naturally, the first question that comes to mind is: So just how much time does the Universe have left? Fortunately, Dr. Andrew Hopkins from the Australian Astronomical Observatory assured redOrbit via email that there is “still plenty of time – something like 100 billion years, before the universe fades to black.”

“Interestingly, there are many more cataclysmic events that will happen long before that cold, isolated, dark end: The Sun will come to the end of its life in about 5 billion years, and our Milky Way Galaxy will collide with our massive neighbor galaxy, Andromeda, in about 10 billion years. So while the Universe is slowly fading, there will still be many significant events going on,” he added. “What is exciting about this work is that we’re measuring this rate of fading more precisely than possible before, across almost the full electromagnetic spectrum.”

So how did Dr. Hopkins and his colleagues pull it off? They used 11 different telescope facilities from all over the word and in space, manned by a survey team of nearly 100 individuals from 12 different countries. The Anglo-Australian Telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory at New South Wales was used during the underlying spectroscopic survey, which measured nearly 250,000 new galaxies in seven years.

“This information was combined with the imaging data from the other 10 telescopes to make this new, highly precise measurement,” Dr. Hopkins said. Other telescopes used as part of the project include the ESO’s VIST and VST survey telescopes at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, NASA’s GALEX and WISE telescopes, and the European Space Agency’s Herschel telescope.

(Image: The distribution of galaxies as mapped by various Australia, US and European survey teams. Credit: ICRAR/GAMA and ESO)