The date the known universe will end has been calculated by a theoretical physicist who claims to have pinpointed when the last known star will die.
Matt Caplan, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University has explored the space scenario known as 'heat death', predicting the last star will explode long after the rest of the universe is a cold wasteland.
He predicts the universe will end when last supernova of a 'black dwarf star' occurs at 10^3,2000 years – an unfathomably long time in the future.
Exploring his findings Caplan calculated how dead stars will morph over time and the last survivor he says will likely be a black dwarf, a cooled-down stellar remnant that could form in trillions of years from stars about the size of the Sun.
Caplan said the end of the known universe will be a "cold and lonely place… mostly black holes and burned-out stars".
The biggest stars explode into supernovas when iron builds at its centre triggering its collapse, while smaller stars become white dwarfs when they run out of thermonuclear fuel don't have the gravitational mass to make iron.
"They [white dwarfs] are essentially pans that have been taken off the stove," Caplan said during a summer lecture series this year.
He added: "They’re going to cool and cool and cool, basically forever."
Caplan believes these white dwarfs may change still over time when the end comes and become black dwarfs. These will then explode into mini supernovas and be the last survivors in space.
He said: "As white dwarfs cool down over the next few trillion years, they’ll grow dimmer, eventually freeze solid, and become ‘black dwarf’ stars that no longer shine.
"Stars shine because of thermonuclear fusion — they’re hot enough to smash small nuclei together to make larger nuclei, which releases energy.
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"White dwarfs are ash, they’re burnt out, but fusion reactions can still happen because of quantum tunnelling, only much slower."
Caplan believes the first black dwarfs will occur in 10 to the 1,1000th years.
He said: "In years, it’s like saying the word ‘trillion’ almost a hundred times. If you wrote it out, it would take up most of a page. It’s mindbogglingly far in the future."
The biggest stars will explode first, followed by all the smaller ones until there are none left, Caplan predicts.
"It’s hard to imagine anything coming after that," he said.
"Black dwarf supernova might be the last interesting thing to happen in the universe. They may be the last supernova ever."
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According to Chaplan's theorising when the end comes the universe will be a black, cold barren place where space objects are so far apart even light could never reach them.
There will be no witnesses when the last star peters out for good.
Caplan said: "Galaxies will have dispersed, black holes will have evaporated, and the expansion of the universe will have pulled all remaining objects so far apart that none will ever see any of the others explode. It won’t even be physically possible for light to travel that far."
In response to the theory Gregory Laughlin, an astrophysicist at Yale University, said: "I think it’s important to stress that any investigations of the far future are necessarily tongue in cheek.
"Our view of the extremely distant future is a reflection of our current understanding, and that view will change from one year to the next."
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