Star production slows to a halt

The “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula are clouds of dust and gas that are still birthing stars.

The gears are grinding to a stop for our universe’s star production line.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the UK Infrared Telescope and the Subaru Telescope, both in Hawaii, and Chile’s Very Large Telescope, about 95 percent of all stars that will ever be born were already created. By taking an expansive survey of the sky, astronomers found that about half of our universe’s stars were created between 11 billion and 9 billion years ago, with the other half forming in the last 9 billion years. That means star production is 30 times slower today than at its peak. Other studies also outline this same timeframe.

Those ancient baby-boom stars would have been very different from most stars we observe today. They would have been super massive, hundreds of times bigger than the sun, and would have burned out into supernovae very quickly. Their demise would lead to the formation of smaller stars, coming together from the leftover dust.

So it seems we’re in our twilight years. In a release, the study’s lead, Leiden University’s David Sobral, said we pretty much missed the party: “We are clearly living in a Universe dominated by old stars. All of the action in the Universe occurred billions of years ago!”

The study estimates that the last star to ever be made will form sometime in the next few billion years. Now that the president is on for another four years, maybe we can lobby for a star stimulus package.


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