How does one confirm that the universe is slowly dying? For starters, you use "as many space and ground-based telescopes as we could get our hands on." That according to Simon Driver, a principal investigator with the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) project. Driver explains that the group used those telescopes—including powerful ones from NASA and the European Space Agency and at the Paranal Observatory in Chile—to measure the energy generated by more than 200,000 galaxies. It's a measurement unprecedented in its precision, and a press release explains that this "most comprehensive assessment" shows that the energy produced in that corner of the universe has been halved over 2 billion years.
Each of those 200,000 galaxies had its energy output measured across 21 wavelengths, spanning from the ultraviolet to the infrared. Energy production is flagging across all wavelengths. "The Universe is slowly dying," as the release puts it. That's actually not the first time such a statement has been uttered: Scientists have been aware of the fading for nearly two decades, but it's the all-wavelength determination that makes this data—presented by the GAMA project yesterday at an international astronomical meeting in Hawaii—noteworthy. "This pretty much closes the case," Ohio State University astronomer John Beacom tells NPR. "Yes, it's coming to an end." He paints the universe as becoming "a bleaker and bleaker place to live." But take solace in the fact that the lights won't go out for a few billion years more. (NASA has scored a photo of the moon unlike any you've seen before.)