While we’ve known for decades that the universe began with a small, densely packed blob of matter that suddenly accelerated rapidly in all dimensions, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that we began to truly understand how the universe might end.
For a long while, there was the romantic notion of the oscillating universe.
If the universe began with a big bang, perhaps it would end with a big collapse. Beginning its life with a rich expansion, gradually decelerating, then ultimately collapsing back in on itself – only to explode outwards once again.
If only enough mass stayed at the universe’s center, this model could work. The gravitational attraction could overcome the initial explosive force of creation, and the universe would forever be caught in a poetic cycle of life and death.
But, alas, it is not to be.
In 1998, observations indicated that the universe was still accelerating outwards. Coupled with measurements of the density of the universe, these observations indicate that we have passed the point where collapse is possible.
Indeed, the universe will continue to accelerate – expanding ever outward into the inky blackness of nothing.
The skies will grow dark, the universe will grow cold, and finally, in this lifeless existence, everything will be forever static, unable to change.
Welcome to the accelerating universe.