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The universe can evaporate. Hawking Theory Update

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All large objects in the universe will eventually evaporate, Dutch scientists say. Their study is an extension of Stephen Hawking’s famous theory about the emission of radiation by black holes, leading to their slow decay. According to the researchers, this is to apply to all objects in space that have gravity.

In 1974, the famous British physicist Stephen Hawking developed a theory explaining why black holes failed to consume all the matter in the universe. These objects must somehow lose mass, otherwise they would be eternal (and forever hungry) – Hawking proposed that this may occur through particles that manage to escape the black hole’s field of influence. This emission, called Hawking radiation, is supposed to eventually lead to the complete disappearance of the object.

According to scientists from the Dutch University of Radboud in Nijmegen, this hypothetical property applies not only to black holes – the emission of particles could eventually lead to the evaporation of all objects in the universe.

Energy theft

The researchers explain that their analysis was based on the mechanism described by Hawking. It loses energy at what is known as the event horizon, the boundary beyond which it cannot leave the gravitational field of a black hole. Hawking argued that this is where pairs of opposing particles spontaneously form and destroy each other. Sometimes, however, one particle falls into the black hole, allowing the other to escape as radiation.

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In a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers created a mathematical model to test whether the presence of an event horizon is needed for spontaneous particle formation to occur. The analysis showed that such “energy theft” also occurs far beyond this zone, due to the object’s strong gravitational interactions.

Everything evaporates?

As explained by Heino Falcke, co-author of the study, the results mean that bodies lacking an event horizon, such as the remnants of dead stars and other objects with a strong gravitational field, emit this type of radiation.

– After a very long time, this would lead to the evaporation of everything in the universe, similar to black holes. This changes not only our understanding of Hawking radiation, but also our view of the universe and its future.”

The impact of Hawking’s extended theory on what we know about the universe is still unclear. Perhaps it means that the aging matter that makes up stars and planets will at some point lose so much energy that it will go into an ultra-low energy state. Such matter could then collapse into a black hole, from which the remaining energy would slowly disappear, until it, too, would evaporate completely.

The biggest challenge in the process of testing the “evaporating universe” hypothesis is the detection of Hawking radiation itself, which is still in the realm of theory. If it is true, it should be around black holes, planets and various types of stars.

Black holePAP

LiveScience, Radboud University Nijmegen

Main photo source: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

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