Findings of a new study now offer a hint on how the universe will eventually come to an end. The scenario involves dark energy causing the universe to rip itself apart until such time that there will be nothing left.
What Is Dark Energy?
Dark energy is an unseen force believed to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Study researcher Mariam Bouhmadi-López, from the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal, said that it appears the distribution of dark energy favors a gradual ripping of the universe that could eventually end all existence.
Several end-of-time scenarios are possible depending on the behavior of dark energy. In one scenario called the Big Freeze, dark energy may accelerate the expansion of the universe steadily over time until the stars, galaxies and atoms become too distant and cold to interact.
Big Rip, Little Sibling of the Big Rip And Little Rip
If dark energy behaves differently in that acceleration is not constant and increases with time, the universe will eventually tear everything in a kind of rip. This could happen if dark energy takes a mysterious phantom form that gets denser with the growth of the universe.
For the new study, Bouhmadi-López and colleagues looked at three versions of this tear, namely the Big Rip, the Little Sibling of the Big Rip and the Little Rip. The Big Rip would happen if the universe abruptly rips itself into pieces at a fixed point in the future while the smaller versions happen more gradually.
To find out which of these three scenarios is likely to happen, the researchers looked at the map of the cosmos that was based on data from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and Planck satellite.
Universe To Gradually Rip Itself Apart
The researchers looked for areas of the universe with variations in gravities. A greater concentration of regular matter and dark matter exists in some regions of the universe and this can lead to inconsistencies in gravity that can influence the rate at which dark energy acts.
Analysis of these clumps of matter hinted that the universe is likely headed for the Little Rip scenario. This scenario is marked by the universe slowly coming apart.
"With the aim to find possible footprints of this scenario in the universe matter distribution, we not only obtain the evolution of the cosmological scalar perturbations but also calculate the matter power spectrum for each model," the researchers wrote in their study.
The Little Rip scenario, however, is not expected to happen for another 100 billion years.