Universe's expansion could make galaxies invisible says expert
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American astronomer Edwin Hubble and some others discovered in the 1920s that the universe is expanding. They showed that most galaxies are receding from the Milky Way, with the further away they are, the faster they recede. The roughly constant ratio between speed and distance became known as the Hubble constant.
For each additional megaparsec — a measurement of distance equal to one million parsecs or 3.26 million light-years — of distance, Hubble found that galaxies receded 500 kilometres per second faster.
So, the Hubble constant was 500 in units of kilometres per second per megaparsec.
Over the years, astronomers significantly revised down this estimate as techniques improved.
But Hubble laid the foundations for what scientists know today, with his later namesake telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, enabling astronomers to peer into the depths of the universe.
It is this telescope that has enabled scientists to go a step further and observe that the universe is indeed expanding.
But, as Professor David Kaiser of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explained, the universe is not only expanding and stretching.
Speaking during the BBC’s series, ‘Universe: Where everything begins and ends’ he said: “It’s actually getting bigger, faster.”
Most observations suggest that the expansion of the universe will continue forever.
If so, a popular theory claims that the universe will cool as it expands and eventually become too cold to sustain life.
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Planets like Earth, then, could eventually be left alone, suspended in space, facing a freezing doomsday.
This is what Professor Larry Gladney of Yale University suggested during the documentary.
He said: “We can well imagine that the universe is going to continue to expand and get so big that eventually, the galaxies will disappear.
“They’ll be so far away from us and moving so rapidly, that we have no hope of seeing any light from them.
“And that’s a real possibility for what could happen in the future.”
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Dark energy — the mysterious force that is causing the rate of expansion of our universe to accelerate — could force the space between clusters of galaxies to grow at an increasing rate.
With this in mind, some theories suggest that a scenario called “Heat Death” could occur.
This has been floated as the ultimate fate of the universe, which suggests it could evolve to a state of no thermodynamic free energy and would therefore be unable to sustain processes that increase entropy — the measure of the amount of energy which is unavailable to do work.
Scientists have, through things like the Hubble Space Telescope, gathered a significant amount of information about the universe.
They have used these observations, as well as previous calculations, to develop a model that is now known as the Big Bang to help explain the universe’s formation and evolution.
It states that about 13.8 billion years ago all the matter in the universe was concentrated into a single incredibly tiny point.
From this tiny point, the whole universe expanded outwards to what exists today.
According to Professor Brian Cox, also speaking during ‘Universe’, there was a time before the Big Bang, in which no matter at all existed.
All that existed was space-time and an ocean of energy, almost still but gently rippling.
Prof Cox said we should picture this place as a “near-still ocean of energy, filling the void”.
While the place had no structures, the energy affected space and caused it to stretch — an “unimaginably violent expansion” known as inflation.
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