Aug 19, 2020 I Paul Seaburn

Scientist Describes When and How the Universe Will Die a Sad and Lonely Death

“It will be a bit of a sad, lonely, cold place. It’s known as ‘heat death,’ where the universe will be mostly black holes and burned-out stars.”

Is the year 2020 so cruel, so heartless, so evil that it will top the coronavirus pandemic, recession, drastic weather and everything else it has thrown at us with the end of the universe in a dramatic cold fizzle without even a last call or an “Elvis has left the building”? In new research published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, theoretical physicist Matt Caplan describes the sad and lonely end of our universe in non-solemn-obituary terms.

“It’s hard to imagine anything coming after that, black dwarf supernova might be the last interesting thing to happen in the universe. They may be the last supernova ever. By the time the first black dwarfs explode, the universe will already be unrecognizable. Galaxies will have dispersed, black holes will have evaporated, and the expansion of the universe will have pulled all remaining objects so far apart that none will ever see any of the others explode. It won’t even be physically possible for light to travel that far.”

If we’re still here, we won’t even be able to watch this cosmic death fireworks display because the light will be too dim. Which bring up the question … will we still be here? And by ‘we’, we mean us living right now. Will the end of the universe happen in our lifetime or that of anyone alive today?

“Caplan calculates that the most massive black dwarfs will explode first, followed by progressively less massive stars, until there are no more left to go off after about 10^32000 years. At that point, the universe may truly be dead and silent.”

To put that massive number in understandable terms, Caplan explains in an Illinois State University press release that the first black hole supernova will occur in about 10^1100 years which is “like saying the word ‘trillion’ almost a hundred times. If you wrote it out, it would take up most of a page. It’s mindbogglingly far in the future.” Finally – something bad that won’t happen in 2020. OK, it would be interesting to see the first black hole supernova – assuming it wasn’t our own Sun. Caplan says that won’t happen.

“Even with very slow nuclear reactions, our sun still doesn’t have enough mass to ever explode in a supernova, even in the far far future. You could turn the whole sun to iron and it still wouldn’t pop.”

That’s good news, although it means our Sun will most likely end up burning out and collapsing into a dense, frozen black dwarf made primarily of iron and not much bigger than Earth. If you want a glimpse of the end of the universe anyway, so does Caplan – he wants to develop a black dwarf supernova simulator.

Just do it in 2021, OK?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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