Skip to comments.Astronomy Picture of the Day 3-03-03
Posted on 03/03/2003 12:08:11 AM PST by petuniasevan
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2003 March 3
Explanation: How will our universe end? Recent speculation now includes a pervasive growing field of mysterious repulsive energy that rips virtually everything apart. Although the universe started with a Big Bang, analysis of recent cosmological measurements allows a possibility that it will end with a Big Rip. As soon as few billion years from now, the controversial scenario holds, dark energy will grow to such a magnitude that our own Galaxy will no longer be able to hold itself together. After that, stars, planets, and then even atoms might not be able to withstand the expansive internal force. Previously, speculation on the ultimate fate of the universe centered on either a re-collapsing Big Crunch or a Big Chill. Although the universe's fate is still a puzzle, piecing it together will likely follow from an increased understanding of the nature of dark matter and dark energy.
Theories like this are interesting on an entertainment level, but so was cold fusion. I'll take this one with a large grain of salt.
Here's a quote from a link:
Cosmologists have long wondered whether the Universe will eventually re-collapse and end with a Big Crunch, or expand forever, becoming increasingly cold and empty. Recent evidence for a flat Universe, possibly with a cosmological constant or some other sort of negative-pressure dark energy, has suggested that our fate is the latter. However, the data may actually be pointing toward an astonishingly different cosmic end game. Here, we explore the consequences that follow if the dark energy is phantom energy, in which the sum of the pressure and energy density is negative. The positive phantom-energy density becomes infinite in finite time, overcoming all other forms of matter, such that the gravitational repulsion rapidly brings our brief epoch of cosmic structure to a close. The phantom energy rips apart the Milky Way, solar system, Earth, and ultimately the molecules, atoms, nuclei, and nucleons of which we are composed, before the death of the Universe in a ``Big Rip''.