So we all know about the Big Bang, right? The cosmic explosion that created our Universe. Well, as with everything, there is a beginning … and an end.
This is the Big Rip, the ultimate fate of our Universe. It will be a cosmic event that will tear apart galaxies, one by one. Stars, planets, you, everything will be eviscerated.
Luckily, it’s not going to happen for another 20-30 billion years. But what if we weren’t so lucky? What if the Big Rip happened tomorrow?
What would happen to our planet? And would this really be the end of everything we know?
In the future, the Big Rip will literally tear apart the Universe, a process that will take about a billion years from start to finish. But, the mad scientists at WHAT IF have sped up the clock. The Big Rip is scheduled for tomorrow.
Try to get some sleep. You’ve got a big day ahead of you. So how will this go down, exactly?
Well, something called dark energy is driving the expansion of the Universe. So as the Universe expands, so does the dark energy.
During this expansion, dark energy transforms into something called phantom energy. And no, it’s not just going through a Goth phase.
If this change happens, and the phantom energy increases faster than the expansion of the Universe, the Big Rip is set to make its debut. Think of it like a water balloon, and the water is filling the balloon up too fast. Eventually, the balloon will pop, But in this case, it’s not a balloon, it’s the entire Universe.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, you’re going to have a very, very interesting day. Imagine that you’re looking up at the beautiful night sky, and you see a shooting star.
Wait, that’s not a shooting star, that’s the Andromeda galaxy. And it’s moving away from us. That’s weird.
So, since you’re confused about what’s happening, you whip out your telescope and try to get a closer look. You try to look for other galaxies in the Local Group of galaxies, but… they’re gone.
Suddenly, all the stars start moving away from you. It looks like you’re traveling at lightspeed. That’s the Milky Way breaking apart. You see Saturn shooting through the night sky. And, oh crap, there goes Jupiter. And, oh no! It got Mars too!
Then, all you see is blackness. The sky is empty of any stars. There’s just complete darkness.
Okay, it can’t get any worse, can it? Well, now the ground is shaking, and you see massive tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. This is because the Moon is breaking away from Earth’s gravitational pull.
But before you even have a chance to react, the Earth will be snatched away from the Sun. And it’s going to get really, really cold.
And for the grand finale, our planet will be torn apart and explode. Luckily, you’ll be dead by the time this happens. Yeah, you heard me. I said, “luckily.”
If you managed to survive long enough during the explosion, you’d be able to witness your own disintegration. All of your molecules would be getting pulled apart! As you unraveled, all the atoms that makeup your body would be swirling around, disintegrating into electrons, and protons, and neutrons.
And then, poof. They’d rip apart as well, leaving nothing behind. Nothing is sacred to the Big Rip. And as the Universe keeps expanding, it’ll get ripped apart too.
The Universe is gone. Just gone. Or at least, it’s gone as we know it. We have no idea what would occur after the Big Rip. That’s totally unknown.
So, sorry for the spoilers, but that’s how we close the book on our Universe. Thankfully, we’ll be long dead before the Big Rip happens. And that’s because another cosmic event is going to kill us first.
- “How the Big Rip could end the world”. Paul Ratner, 2020. Big Think.
- “Dark Energy”. 2020. hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu.
- “What Is The Big Rip? – Universe Today”. 2013. Universe Today.
- “New Approach To Cosmological Bulk Viscosity”. Disconzi, Marcelo M., Thomas W. Kephart, and Robert J. Scherrer. 2015.
- “Ask Ethan: Could The Big Rip Lead To Another Big Bang?”. Siegel, Ethan. 2020. Forbes.
- “Phantom Energy: Dark Energy Withw<−1Causes A Cosmic Doomsday”. Caldwell, Robert R., Marc Kamionkowski, and Nevin N. Weinberg. 2003. Physical Review Letters 91 (7). doi:10.1103/physrevlett.91.071301.