The universe could be swallowed up by dark energy - Image: Getty
Universe is being Swallow Up by dark energy leaving 'big, empty' space, says shock study
Life as we know it could soon cease to exist as dark energy is set to Swallow Up the universe - leaving a 'big, empty' space
By Levi Winchester
31 October 2014
Professor David Wands:
If the dark energy is growing and dark matter is evaporating we will end up with a big, empty, boring universe with almost nothing in it
The shocking report, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, showed that dark energy grows as it interacts with dark matter.
As the dark energy grows, it slows down the growth of structure in our atmosphere - meaning that we could be left with a universe with almost nothing in it.
Professor David Wands, director of Portsmouth's Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, said:
"This study is about the fundamental properties of space-time.
"On a cosmic scale, this is about our universe and its fate.
"If the dark energy is growing and dark matter is evaporating we will end up with a big, empty, boring universe with almost nothing in it.
"Dark matter provides a framework for structures to grow in the universe. The galaxies we see are built on that scaffolding and what we are seeing here, in these findings, suggests that dark matter is evaporating, slowing that growth of structure."
Prof Wands said the traditional study of cosmology was thrown upside down in 1998, when researchers announced that the rate at which the universe was expanding was speeding up.
The idea of a constant dark energy throughout space-time then became a standard model of cosmology, but since then, the growth of cosmic structures and galaxies have been slower than expected.
He said: "Since the late 1990s astronomers have been convinced that something is causing the expansion of our universe to accelerate.
"The simplest explanation was that empty space - the vacuum - had an energy density that was a cosmological constant.
"[But] there is growing evidence that this simple model cannot explain the full range of astronomical data researchers now have access to - in particular the growth of cosmic structure, galaxies and clusters of galaxies seems to be slower than expected."
However, Professor Dragan Huterer, of the University of Michigan, confessed that while the results surprised him, there is still more research that needs to be done to fully understand dark energy.
He said: "The paper does look very interesting.
"Any time there is a new development in the dark energy sector we need to take notice since so little is understood about it.
"I would not say, however, that I am surprised at the results, that they come out different than in the simplest model with no interactions.
"We've known for some months now that there is some problem in all data fitting perfectly to the standard simplest model."