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Beyond Earthly Skies

Iron Stars at Eternity’s End

18 Apr 2013, 11:12 UTC
Iron Stars at Eternity’s End
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Stars generate energy and fuse lighter elements into heavier ones through nuclear fusion. The majority of stars produce energy by fusing hydrogen into helium. More massive stars can continue to fuse helium into carbon, carbon into oxygen, oxygen into silicon and silicon into iron. Once iron is produced, it signals the last step in any stable nuclear fusion reaction because the creation of elements heavier than iron consume more energy than can be produced. In general, most stars are not massive enough to fuse carbon and other heavier elements. These stars die off as stellar remnants known as white dwarfs which gradually cool over eons and settle as black dwarfs. The present universe is way too young for black dwarfs to exist. Stars massive enough to fuse carbon and other heavier elements typically explode as supernovae.Currently, the universe is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old. The last stars in the universe are expected to fizzle out ~1014years from now and the largest supermassive black holes are expected to evaporate completely via Hawking Radiation ~10100 years from now. From this time period onwards, most of the ordinary matter in the universe is predicted to be in the form of black ...

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