Don’t freak out, but science says our universe is slowly dying

Well guys, everything must come to an end. And when we say “everything,” we mean it, because after 13.8 billion years of existence the universe as we know it is slowly dying. We’re not exaggerating here, because the conclusion of a new study literally reads “The universe is slowly dying.” OK, OK, calm down, deep breaths. We’ll let you know now that by “slowly” scientists mean “in trillions of years.” But the look on your face was pretty funny.

So here’s what you need to know: based on findings from the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project published yesterday in the European Southern Observatoryan international team of approximately 100 astronomers studied a lot of galaxies. Like, 200,000 of ’em, making the study more precise than ever before. The astronomers measured the energy generated within this extremely large portion of space, making the study “the most comprehensive assessment of the energy output of the nearby universe,” according to European Southern Observatory.

“We used as many space- and ground-based telescopes as we could get our hands on to measure the energy output of over 200,000 galaxies across as broad a wavelength range as possible,” said team-leader and astronomer Simon Driver in a statement.

And here’s what the astronomers found: the cosmos is only radiating about half as much energy across a broad spectrum of lightwaves and electromagnetic radiation as it was two billion years ago. UMMM OK.

The scientists have known that the universe is dying for decades, but they didn’t know that this cooling effect is happening across a broad range of wavelengths. “The Universe will decline from here on in, sliding gently into old age. The universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze,” Driver said.

That’s nothing short of terrifying. Can you even imagine life without a universe? What would happen if it disappears? Just a vast amount of nothingness? No, according to astronomer Luke Davies, because it wouldn’t disappear. “It will just grow old forever, slowly converting less and less mass into energy as billions of years pass by until eventually, it will become a cold, dark and desolate place, where all of the lights go out,” he said. Sounds like a poetic nightmare.

According to a study, the universe’s sad, cold, dark demise won’t be coming in our lifetime, or our childrens’ lifetime, or our childrens’ childrens’ lifetime. In fact, it will take trillions of years to actually get to this point —so DO NOT WORRY, FRIENDS!

Also, know this: A lot of the energy currently in our universe is a result of the Big Bang, but new energy is being generated as well. “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.

So what actually happens to the energy? “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 explained.

So, Game of Thrones fans, looks like wide-spread winter actually is coming, but not for a while (and, hopefully, no White Walkers will be involved). If you want to learn more about the researchers’ findings, check out the video they created below.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons

Astronauts just sent a donut into space

12 questions for a 27-year-old space engineer