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The Question

(Submitted July 09, 2001)

My question is, what would happen to the all the matter in the universe when it turns into stars, which in turn turn into black-holes, which would suck in more matter, would it just become an "empty space?"

The Answer

First off, all the matter in the universe will not end up in black holes. Most stars in the universe don't have enough mass to become black holes at the end of their lives. Neutron stars and white dwarfs are much more numerous; this is what most stars end up as.

Secondly, black holes are not cosmic vacuum cleaners, whatever you may have heard. They will not suck up everything in the universe. They only suck up what crosses their event horizons.

(See http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970612a.html)

The universe, if it is "open" and keeps on expanding forever, will probably end up as a cosmic graveyard, populated by things like black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs.

This website has more on black holes: http://cosmology.berkeley.edu/Education/BHfaq.html

And this one has info on cosmology: http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html

Amy C. Fredericks and Mike Loewenstein
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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