It could evolve, strengthen, decay, or not be alone.
Our known Universe contains matter, radiation, and dark energy.
As it expands, matter and radiation dilute, but dark energy persists.
As time progresses, only dark energy remains cosmically important.
It determines our fate, but these five scenarios could irrevocably change it.
1.) Vacuum decay. Dark energy, the zero-point energy of empty space, possesses a positive, non-zero value.
Decaying to a lower-energy state would create a destabilizing “bubble of destruction,” expanding outward at light-speed.
2.) Restoring inflation. Cosmic inflation occurred very early on, preceding and setting up the hot Big Bang.
Particle collisions at sufficiently high energies — 10¹⁵ GeV or so — could restore the inflationary state, “resetting” our Universe.
3.) Dynamical dark energy. Dark energy might not remain constant, but could evolve unexpectedly.
If it strengthens, weakens, or flips sign, a “heat death” may not await us at all.
4.) There’s a “darker” energy out there. Dark energy’s constant density makes it important once matter and radiation dilute sufficiently.
A yet-undetected “darker” energy could strengthen over time, eventually dominating all other components in the Universe.
5.) Transport to another Universe. Black holes could serve as portals to other, baby Universes.
As our Universe’s final, persisting structures, black holes could provide a final escape.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.