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The skies of the far future will be dark and lonely, but our descendants will have one telltale clue to help them decipher the cosmos

Once, long ago, we shared the universe with 100 billion galaxies. Now only a single island of stars remains, floating in an unutterably vast, unutterably empty ocean of space. This is a vision of the Milky Way when the cosmos is 10 times older than it is today.

The perpetrator of this desperately lonely future is dark energy, the mysterious force that is accelerating the expansion of the cosmos. Billions of years from now, the expansion will drive all the other galaxies over the cosmic horizon where their light can never reach us. Ours will be the only galaxy left in the observable universe.

So disturbing is this image that some researchers have been toying with the idea of moving the galaxy to a more hospitable neighbourhood. Others are more sanguine about our fate and are exploring what, if anything, cosmologists of the future will be able to tell about the universe they live in.

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Category: Science