Starts With A Bang

Ask Ethan #111: Do Galaxies Die? (Synopsis)

Image credit: ESO/S. Guisard.

“Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself and an eventual extinction.” –Jean Dubuffet

The Universe is in its heyday right now: hundreds of billions of galaxies are visible from any point, clustered together in a glorious cosmic web, with millions, billions or even trillions of stars burning inside of each one. Yet none of this will last forever.

Image credit: the small star forming region NGC 346, from A. Nota (ESA/STScI) et al., ESA, NASA.

If we peer into the far future, any individual galaxy itself will not survive in its present state, with mergers, the cessation of star formation and its eventual dissociation into nothingness an inevitability.

Image credit: ESA (Image by C. Carreau).

Here’s the cosmic story of how galaxies die, no matter how you define a cosmic death.