The Big Rip

You may have heard of the Big Bang, the Big Crunch and possibly even the Big Chill as fates of the Universe. A new one on me was the Big Rip which was mentioned yesterday morning at one of the sessions in the National Astronomy Meeting at Milton Keynes. The talk was by Isobel Hook - an astrophysicist who works at the University of Oxford.

Using information from things such as the Supernova Legacy Survey and the Supernova Cosmology Project, it became apparent that the Universe seems to be expanding and the expansion is getting faster. This is caused by what is known as 'dark energy' which we now think is what about 70% of the Universe consists of (normal matter that we are made of is only a few percent!). If the Universe expands and this expansion is accelerating faster than a certain amount, we will gradually lose sight of other galaxies - it was pointed out that extragalactic astronomy will gradually become less interesting! However Caldwell et. al. (2003) say that if the acceleration is large enough, matter could be pushed apart violently by 'phantom energy' and this is termed the Big Rip.

In other words, in the future, the galaxy may not be able to hold itself together by gravity as phantom energy works against it. In one model this would happen 60 million years before the end of the Universe. At End of the Universe - 3 months, the solar system would be torn apart, closely followed by the Earth exploding with only 30 minutes to go!

We really need to write a book titled "101 ways to end the Universe".

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Friday 02nd Apr 2004 (22:44 UTC) | Permalink
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