Despite the advanced technologies available to us today, we are still a long way from unraveling all of the secrets of the universe. But thanks to the efforts of scientists like Fred Adams and Gregory Laughlin, we will better understand its history and nature.
In fact, in 1999 the duo published a book in which they split the life of the universe into five cycles. The book in question is called The Five Ages of the Universe: In the Physics of Eternity. The era we live in is called Star Age and there are four more. Note that not all scientists agree with this concept. For example, astrophysicist Ethan C. Siegel said in an article published last June that we have already entered the sixth and final era of the universe.
The primeval times
Primeval times are defined as the beginning of the universe. It begins with the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. At the beginning, space-time and the laws of physics did not yet exist. This strange time is called the Planck era. It took 10-44 seconds. Inflation started a second after the Big Bang ended.
This was marked by a sudden expansion of the universe to 100 trillion billion times its original size. About 380,000 years after the gigantic explosion, the temperature has dropped so far that the first atoms can be born. This enabled the formation of dark matter and matter, but also the first stars.
The stelliferous age
Sidereal time is the current time when matter is organized into stars, galaxies, and galaxy clusters. The first stars were huge, but eventually exploded. This produced many more smaller stars.
These merged thanks to gravity and formed galaxies. In contrast to less bright stars, massive stars use up their fuel very quickly. At the end of the Sidereal Age, bright stars as we know them will no longer exist. The universe will only have white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.
We are still far from having pierced all the secrets of the universe. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Vovan
The degenerate era
The next step is the degenerate era. It will start roughly 1 trillion years after the Big Bang and last up to 1 duodecillion years after. According to Fred Adams and Gregory Laughlin, this will be the era of the brown dwarfs, white dwarfs, and neutron stars. These “degenerate stars” are much less bright than what we now see in the night sky. As this era progresses, the protons begin to decay. The survivors of such an event will be the black holes.
The era of the black hole
As the name suggests, the era of the black hole is the era when there will only be black holes in the universe. These will attract the remaining mass and energy. Black holes themselves slowly evaporate and allow small parts of their matter to escape through the process of quantum mechanics of Hawking radiation.
According to astronomer Phil Plait, it would take about 1,068 years for a tiny black hole 50 times the size of the Sun’s mass to resolve. At the end of this era, only very low-energy photons, electrons, positrons and neutrinos will exist.
The Dark Age or the Age of Darkness will be marked by a significant decrease in activity in the universe. Electrons and positrons drifting through space meet and sometimes form positronium atoms. However, these structures have great instability and their particulate components eventually disappear completely. In essence, at some point the universe will turn into a void forever.