The stars will continue to explode long after the universe cools and “dies”, a scientist determined to dive into the rabbit hole to find the last supernova that will happen.
Theoretical physicist Matt Caplan, associate professor of physics at Illinois State University, said when the universe as we know it “died” it would be a place “a little sad, lonely, cold” said in a statement. In a new study, Caplan calculated how dead stars might change over time and determined when the supernova would eventually explode in the distant future of the universe.
The end of the universe is known as the “thermal death”, where the universe is essentially black holes and burned stars, “Caplan explained in his statement.” I became a physicist for a reason. . I want to think about the big questions – why is the universe here, and how will it end? ”
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In the new study, Caplan looks to the future of star explosions. Giant stars explode in supernovae when iron accumulates in their cores, accumulating and causing star collapse. But smaller stars like white dwarfs – super dense corpses that form when sun-like stars use up nuclear fuel – don’t have the gravity and density to make this iron. However, Caplan discovered that, over time, white dwarfs can become denser and become “black dwarf” stars that can actually make iron.
“As white dwarfs cool down over the next few trillion years, they will fade, eventually freeze and become ‘black dwarf’ stars that no longer shine,” Caplan said. “Stars shine through fusion – they are hot enough to smash small nuclei together to create larger nuclei, releasing energy.” White dwarfs are ash, they are all burnt, but fusion is still possible due to quantum tunneling, just much slower. ”
Quantum tunneling is the phenomenon where a subatomic particle “goes” through a barrier that appears to be impassable when it disappears reappears on the other side of the barrier.
Caplan notes that this fusion is the key to making iron in black dwarfs and activating this type of supernova.
The new study shows how much different sized black dwarfs will need to generate to explode. Caplan calculated that the first of these “black dwarf supernovae” will explode in about 10 to 1,100 years – an almost unthinkable number. “For years, it was like saying the word ‘trillion’ almost a hundred times. If you write it down, it will take up almost a page. It’s worth thinking in the future,” he said.
He discovered that the heaviest black dwarfs would explode first, followed by smaller and smaller stars until there were no more stars, which he predicted would occur in about 10 ^ 3,200 years. again. “It’s hard to imagine anything happening after that,” he said. “Black dwarf supernovae could be the last interesting thing to happen in the universe. They could be the last supernova ever to have.”
So what will the “sad, lonely” universe at this point be, after the last supernova explodes? According to Caplan, “Galaxies will scatter, black holes will evaporate, and the expansion of the universe will pull all the remaining objects apart so far that no one else can see any other objects. It would not even be able to travel long light. “
This study published August 7 in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Monthly Announcement.
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