Ask Ethan: Could The Universe Be Torn Apart In A Big Rip?
“Is The Big Rip—where expansion exceeds all the other forces—still considered a possible future for our Universe? What are the arguments for or against? And if so, how would it unfold, what would happen?”
In addition to normal matter, dark matter, neutrinos, and radiation, the Universe is made up of dark energy: a new form of energy intrinsic to space itself. Although the data indicates that dark energy is consistent with being a cosmological constant, whose energy density won’t change with time, it’s possible that this energy will increase or decrease in strength. If it decreases, it could decay entirely or even reverse sign. resulting in a Big Crunch. But if it increases, we could have a spectacularly catastrophic fate: the Big Rip. In the Big Rip, bound objects will literally be ripped apart on galactic, stellar, planetary, and eventually even atomic scales. Even space itself will rip apart in the end.