Scientists: “Catastrophic collapse” of the universe may be “imminent”

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Researchers have claimed that the universe will become non-existent as galaxies could rip to shreds in tens of billions of years – a relatively short time in cosmological terms.

Nemanja Kaloper at the University of California, Davis, and Antonio Padilla at the University of Nottingham have claimed through a new theory that universe will end as we know it today and evidence of such a fate could be found in clues left by dark energy and the rapid expansion of the universe.

The duo has proposed the mechanism by which universe will meet with its catastrophic collapse in a paper published in Physical Review Letters. Researchers say that dark energy is an indication of an impending doom, but they are still to analyse data before they can exact date on when the doom is expected.

“Early indications suggest the collapse will kick in in a few tens of billions of years, but we have yet to properly verify this”, said Padilla in a statement to Phys.org.

Scientists reveal that their research doesn’t have a sole purpose of predicting the end date of universe, but aims to answer some of questions that haven’t been solved for quite a long time including why is the universe expanding at an accelerating rate, and what is the dark energy causing this acceleration? Both these questions are related to a term dubbed cosmological constant – which is the value of uniform energy density that permeates space – something that explains why the universe wasn’t collapsing.

Einstein coined the term cosmological constant in 1917 to explain why the universe wasn’t collapsing. This constant is the value of energy density of the vacuum of space. However, in 1998 physicists and cosmologists revealed that the expansion of universe had accelerated meaning that the cosmological constant was to have a non-zero value, and many believed this expansion was the sign of an imminent collapse.

Researchers add that the predicted vacuum energy density of the universe creating the expansion is much larger than what is observed and the current non-zero value is too large.

The duo adds that just before the expansion stops there will be a period of ‘slow roll’ that brings about the accelerated expansion as we seen today. Eventually the expansion will stop when it reaches a critical point following which the universe will begin shrinking resulting into a ‘big crunch’.