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The future of the universe looks dark. The stars will fade away, matter may disintegrate, and even black holes may vanish. That will leave a cold, dark void containing only the most basic bits of matter and energy.
This future scenario depends on the nature of dark energy — a mysterious something that’s causing the universe to expand faster as it ages. Current theory says that dark energy will become more dominant as the eons roll by, causing the universe to expand ever faster.
As space is stretched, clusters of galaxies will be so far apart that they’ll be isolated from each other. So if the inhabitants of a cluster look toward intergalactic space, they won’t see any galaxies other than the ones that are close by.
And as time passes, there won’t be much to see in their own cluster, either. The last stars will form tens of trillions of years from now. The smallest and faintest of them will last for perhaps 10 trillion years more. After that, the galaxies will be populated only by stellar corpses — white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes — and by the failed stars known as brown dwarfs.
One of the basic building blocks of atoms — the proton — eventually may decay. If so, then all the atoms in the universe will fall apart.
And even black holes probably won’t last forever. They should evaporate, creating torrents of energy that will quickly fade.
After that, only cold and darkness — a dead universe that may expand forever.
Script by Damond Benningfield