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The Big Rip is a cosmological hypothesis first published in 2003, about the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the matter of the universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, are progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future. Theoretically, the scale factor of the universe becomes infinite at a finite time in the future.
The hypothesis relies crucially on the type of dark energy in the universe. The key value is the equation of state parameter w, the ratiobetween the dark energy pressure and its energy density. At w < −1, the universe will eventually be pulled apart. Such energy is calledphantom energy, an extreme form of quintessence.
In a phantom-energy dominated universe, the universe expands at an ever-increasing rate. However, this implies that the size of theobservable universe is continually shrinking; the distance to the edge of the observable universe which is moving away at the speed of light from any point gets ever closer. When the size of the observable universe is smaller than any particular structure, then no interaction between the farthest parts of the structure can occur, neither gravitational nor electromagnetic (nor weak or strong), and when they can no longer interact with each other in any way they will be "ripped apart". The model implies that after a finite time there will be a final singularity, called the "Big Rip", in which all distances diverge to infinite values.
In their paper they consider an example with w = -1.5, H0 = 70 km/s/MPsec and Ωm = 0.3, in which case the end of the universe is approximately 22 billion years from now. This is not considered as a prediction, but as a hypothetical example. The authors note that evidence indicates w is very close to -1 in our universe, which makes ω the dominating term in the equation. The closer (1 + w) is to zero, the closer the denominator is to zero and the more distant (in time) is the Big Rip. If w were exactly equal to -1 then the Big Rip could not happen, regardless of the values of H0 or Ωm.
In their scenario for w = -1.5, the galaxies would first be separated from each other. About 60 million years before the end, gravity would be too weak to hold the Milky Way and other individual galaxies together. Approximately three months before the end, the Solar system will be gravitationally unbound. In the last minutes, stars and planets will be torn apart, and an instant before the end, atoms will be destroyed.
- List of astronomical topics
- Heat-death of the Universe
- Big Crunch
- Big Bounce
- Accelerating universe
- Ultimate fate of the Universe
- Phantom energy
- Cyclic Model
- Dark energy