A new study has measured 200,000 galaxies in an effort to chart the rate at which our Universe is outputting energy, and effectively dying. The study is part of the larger Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, a comprehensive spectroscopic survey seeking to create a model of energy production by the Universe, both in the present day and in times past.
The ambitious survey made use of the three orbital telescopes, GALEX, Herschel and WISE, along with a host of ground-based observatories and survey data. The combination of these facilities and resources allowed GAMA to measure the energy output of the sample galaxies in 21 wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to the far infrared.
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Some of the energy detected by the telescopes was created in the Big Bang and subsequently locked up in mass, which is today released via the nuclear fusion reaction that takes place at the heart of every star. Other sources of energy emission include the vast disks of super hot materials surrounding black holes, quasars, and the massive dust clouds that re-radiate absorbed stellar energy.
The sheer range of energy being measured by the GAMA study renders it superior to other forerunner surveys that have attempted to map the Universe using only a narrow wavelength range. GAMA has been able to assume a more panchromatic approach thanks to rapid technological advancements in the field of astronomy and logistics, and a leviathan collaboration involving nearly 100 scientists from over 30 universities.
Based on the information from the sample galaxies, the study concludes that the energy being output by our Universe has reduced by half in roughly two billion years across all wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the infrared. The results of the study support what has been suspected since the late 1990s – that the lights are going out, and that our Universe is slowly dying.
"The Universe will decline from here on in, sliding gently into old age," concludes Simon Driver, head of the international GAMA team. "The Universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze.”
The information collected by the study has now been released to the astronomical community, with the researchers hoping to leverage state of the art facilities such as the planned Square Kilometre Array to map energy production over the complete history of our Universe.
Scroll down for a fly-through of the GAMA Galaxy Survey. Note that the distances between galaxies is accurate though the galaxies themselves have been enlarged for better viewing.