The End is Nigh – but not for another 22 billion years. Scientists believe as the universe continues to expand at an increasing rate, it will eventually disintegrate, tearing itself apart in the form of a ‘Big Rip’, rather than a ‘Big Bang’.
Planets and particles will be shredded in the final seconds before all of known space and time disappears.
Experts studied distant exploding stars to examine whether the ‘Big Rip’ theory was true.
The further away they are the redder they appear, because the light has been stretched out as it travels through space to reach us.
“The idea of the Big Rip is that eventually even the constituents of matter would start separating from each other. You’d be seeing all the atoms being ripped apart. It’s fair to say that it’s a dramatic scenario” said Dr Marcelo Disconzi from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Mathematically we know what this means. But what it actually means in physical terms is hard to fathom,” he said.
Scientists believe ‘dark energy’, which is believed to make up about 70 percent of the universe, is dragging it towards eventual oblivion.
“You have this competition between dark energy, that tries to expand the universe, and gravity, that tends to make it collapse again. The question is who wins?” said Dr Disconzi.
If gravity wins, we face the ‘Big Crunch’, which sees the expansion slowing down until there is a reverse of the ‘Big Bang’, the episode which is believed to have kick-started the cosmos almost 14 billion years ago.
Other ideas have included the ‘Big Freeze’, where the universe slowly expands until it eventually becomes too cold to sustain life.
Dr Disconzi added, “What is known from current observational data is that a Big Rip scenario is possible, although the available data is far from conclusive.”