FWD: End of Universe in 10 trillion years

John Blanco-Losada (jbl@clark.net)
Thu, 16 Jan 97 15:02:45 -0500

Since there was some discussion about this not too long ago, I thought
I'd forward the following Reuters story:

TORONTO (Reuter) - The end of the universe as humans know it
will occur in about 10 trillion years, but certain physical
processes will continue as far into the future as astronomers
can imagine, scientists reported Wednesday.
For all practical purposes, what we think of as the universe
will end when all the big stars like our Sun stop shining, said
astrophysicist Fred Adams of the University of Michigan: ``At
that time, a human eye on Earth would observe the universe to be
dark and black.''
But there would be no human eyes to observe it, Adams and
his colleague Greg Laughlin said at a news conference, because
by that point Earth's oceans would have boiled away in the Sun's
dying flameout, reducing the planet to an uninhabitable cinder.
However, Adams stressed that these predictions have no
effect on the details of current earthly life: ``As we approach
the end of this millenium, I'd like to make the point that the
end is not that near.''
``The universe will never end,'' Laughlin said. ``... The
universe will always be here and interesting things will
continue to occur.''
Unlike many astronomers, whose studies have focused on the
history of the universe, Adams and Laughlin peered into the
distant future by applying ``fundamental physical laws,'' they
told reporters at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society
in Toronto.
To put their research into context, it is useful to remember
that current estimates set the age of the universe at perhaps 10
billion to 15 billion years. To even discuss the far-off future
they envisioned, the researchers had to make up a new
measurement of time: the cosmological decade.
By this measurement, 10 trillion years would be described as
13 cosmological decades -- or a 1 with 13 zeroes in front of it.
In 14 cosmological decades -- 100 trillion years -- the very
last stars, including smaller ones that will live longer than
our Sun, will be dead, the scientists said.
After that will be a so-called Degenerate Era populated by
burned-out stars and mysterious matter-sucking black holes.
Galaxies like our Milky Way will ``relax'' with some star
remnants moving toward the edge of the galaxy and others falling
into the center of it.
By about cosmological decade 37, the decay of sub-atomic
particles called protons will begin, ringing ``the death knell
for carbon-based life as we know it,'' Laughlin said.
In subsequent decades, dubbed the Black Hole Era, black
holes will radiate away their mass and disappear.
By about the 100th cosmological decade the aptly-named Dark
Era will begin, and about this era little is known. The universe
will consist of a ``diffuse sea of electrons, positrons,
neutrinos and radiation,'' Adams said.
Also presented at the astronomy meeting was the first
three-dimensional map of the Milky Way galaxy. The map, put
together using 20 years worth of data, was constructed by the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

John Blanco-Losada "You must be the change
jbl@clark.net you wish to see
http://www.clark.net/pub/jbl/jbl.html in the world." - M. Gandhi