The universe may collapse inward

Since the beginning of our existence, humanity has wondered what the end of the world would look like. We know more and more about the fate that awaits the Earth, but in the state of the universe there is still no consensus. Until recently, most astronomers thought so Our world will end in a major crisis. Now another theory dominates.

Trillions of years in the future, long after there is no trace of Earth left, the universe will begin to collapse until new galaxies and stars cease to form. The darkness will devour everything, and all matter will be sucked into the black holes until there is nothing left. literally. Eventually all traces of heat will disappear. Astronomers call this the Big Freeze.

Is it possible to predict the end without knowing the beginning?

Photo: Vadim Sadovsky/Shutterstock

Over a hundred years ago, the universe seemed static, always was and always will be the same. For this reason, scientists believed that the Milky Way was the entire universe, and there was nothing beyond it. But when Albert Einstein formulated his theory of general relativity, something seemed wrong. The equations showed that the universe must be in motion, either expanding or contracting. Thus was born the cosmological constant, that is, a special modification, independent of time and space, that was complementary to the general theory of relativity.

At the same time, astronomers began to accept that some of the mysterious spiral-shaped nebulae they observed through telescopes… There were no clusters of stars in our galaxy. They were completely different galaxies. It was Edwin Hubble who measured their motion and showed that these galaxies were actually moving away from our Galaxy. Thus it was discovered that the universe is expanding.

Shortly thereafter, it was determined that the universe was born in a violent event known as the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. For a long time this was taken for granted, so people began to wonder: How and when will the universe end?

Right now, there are two dominant trends mentioned earlier: the Great Collapse or the Great Hail. To find out which view is most likely, we need to analyze the further evolution of the universe.

When everything collapses

 Image: Shutterstock

The Great Collapse is a simple, clear vision of the future of the universe. In 1922, Russian physicist and mathematician Alexander Friedman developed a famous set of equations that showed that the fate of our universe depends on its density. It may expand or contract, but it will not remain unchanged. With enough matter, the expansion of the universe would eventually stop and gravity would cause it to collapse inward.

In the 1960s, scientists calculated that there was enough matter in the known universe that the universe would eventually collapse into an infinitely dense state, or perhaps a supermassive black hole. Once it is compressed to a point of infinite density, another cycle will begin (The Next Big Bang) and the expansion will begin again in what is called the Big Reversal.

In 1969, physicist John Wheeler introduced the term “black hole.” He was a great supporter of the Big Collapse, and in his view, observations of black holes clearly indicated the ultimate fate of the universe. Wheeler viewed each black hole as a “microcosm” of the final state of the universe. Astronomers agreed with this theory and argued for a long time that this is how our universe should end. But this is not the only option.

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When the stars burn out

 Image: NASA, ESA and HST Frontier Fields Team (STScI), Acknowledgments: Judy Schmidt

In the late 1990s, two groups of scientists studied the distant universe by analyzing Type Ia supernovae, which astronomers use to measure distances in the universe. It was later discovered that distant supernova explosions appeared faint, so they should have been farther away than expected. It has been said that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down at all, but on the contrary, it must be accelerating. It has also been suggested that there must be an unknown form of energy catalyzing this process – so-called dark energy.

Accepting the existence of dark energy means that the universe is unlikely to end in a major collapse. Even all the matter pulling inward in the universe would not be able to overcome the expanding effect of dark energy. Therefore the Big Collapse theory was rejected and it was suggested that the universe must end with heat death.

Wouldn't it be easier to deny the existence of dark energy? Exactly not, because without it there is no mass in the universe. Research conducted in 2011 seems to confirm the existence of dark energy, which makes up to 68.3 percent. In the energy balance in the universe. For comparison, it should be noted that “normal” matter, that is, everything we see, is only 4.9%. (The missing proportions are filled with dark matter.) Dark energy is the real force behind Einstein's cosmological constant, which plays an important role in preventing the Big Collapse.

Thanks to the expansion caused by dark energy, within a few trillion years, all but the closest galaxies will be too distant to be seen. After about 100 trillion years, star formation will stop like any other stellar “debris.” White dwarfs Or black holes, will absorb leftover matter.

About a year from now, the last objects in the universe – supermassive black holes – will finish being evaporated by Hawking radiation. After this event, the universe will enter a so-called dark age in which there will be no matter.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy will reach its maximum level. This means that the universe will reach a state in which all energy (including heat) is distributed evenly. The temperature of the entire universe will be slightly above absolute zero (-273.15 degrees Celsius). Everything around you will be empty and dark. The universe will simply “burn up.”

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