Looks like the cosmos may now be about as stellar as it’s going to get. The rate of new star formation has slowed considerably over the past few billion years, and the universe, like a Florida winter, is now dominated by the old and decaying.
How researchers figured this out is especially cool.
The picture up top there is from the Hubble telescope’s Extreme Deep Field (XDF) survey. That’s not how they did it. But the XDF is the sum of almost 10 years of Hubble exposures that peer back 13.2 billion years into the universe’s history. The universe itself is only about 13.7 billion years old (the time since the Big Bang). The oldest stars and galaxies in the XDF are 13.2 billion light years away, which means we are looking at the universe as it was 13.2 billion years ago.
The new study took pictures of the universe 2, 4, 6 and 9 billion years ago, and discovered that more than half of our stars are more than 9 billion years old. And the sooner to “now” that you look, the fewer new stars you see.
Popular Science has some more info about this sobering tale of star birth. Looks like the universe is more a place of decay these days than it is creation. Hurry! Go look at the stars while you can! We only have several billion years before they burn out!!