Will we run out of stars?

Will the universe end up starless?
23 June 2020


A large astronomical telescope against a dark starry sky.



If stars turn light elements into heavy ones, does that mean there’ll be no stars one day?


We put this stellar question to University of Cambridge astronomer Matt Bothwell...

Matt - Yeah, the answer is like a very resounding yes. I mean, so there's a bit of a lifecycle of galaxies, right? Where they, they take gas, which is like the fuel for future stars. And then that gets squished down by gravity and turns into stars and then stars then live their lives and then explode. And then normally what happens is an exploding star might trigger more stars being formed in the future. But the listener is absolutely right. It's like, there's only so many times this can happen, right? Like there is only a certain amount of energy in the galaxy, there's only a certain amount of gas. Once it's all gone, it's all gone. And so the interesting thing is that I think from the perspective of the very, very distant future, stars might be seen as an artifact of the early universe, right? We know the universe just going to carry on getting bigger and bigger, and colder and colder into the very far distant future. And when the universe is made up of black holes and nothing else, you know, any future inhabitants might look back on the time with stars and just see our time as almost an afterglow of the Big Bang or something.

Phil - So just like Betamax, Tamagotchis, Pokemon cards, and stars.

Matt - Exactly like dated technology.


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