Think you’re going to live forever? Think again. Even if you defy human mortality, the universe will catch up to you sooner or later. No, I’m not talking about environmental pollution, I’m talking about the end of the planet. The end of our galaxy. The end of the universe.
Put simply, the universe is very much trying to kill you. Here are the top 4 scary ways you could die as a result of the universe’s bloodlust over the next 4 billion years — give or take. Immortality has met its match.
Killer Asteroids – Time Until Death: As little as 20-40 years
Near-Earth Asteroid 2007 VK184 is a 130-meter asteroid, and the first asteroid to be rated with a 1 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale. Now, being rated a 1 on a scale of 10 isn’t too bad, but consider that a 10 on the scale equates to certain collision and global catastrophe.
The chances of 2007 VK184 hitting Earth are between 1-in-1,820 and 1-in-2,700. That might not sound like much, but it’s nearly as likely as the chance that you’d end up dead via drowning, and about 10 times more likely than being murdered by another human being.
It’s not like it hasn’t happened before to planet Earth, either. Do you think you’re any better than the dinosaurs? A few small gravitational bumps in the wrong direction would spell doom for the planet. The big day will be June 3, 2048, so mark your calendars, we have about 35 years and counting.
Meanwhile, another massive asteroid, 2013 TV135, was just discovered by Ukrainian astronomers. This one could potentially strike Earth even sooner, in 2032. It’s the only other asteroid currently recorded with a 1 on the Torino Scale, and while it’s a 1-in-63,000 long shot, at 400 meters wide, it would devastate the planet with the strength of about 2,500 nuclear bombs.
Vaporized by a Gamma Ray Burst – Time Until Death: Anytime
A gamma ray burst (GRB) from a neutron star, black hole, or various other cosmic rarities could destroy our atmosphere and lead to a global extinction event in a matter of seconds. While the chances of this occurring are miniscule, scientists say that the planet was actually hit by a GRB as recently as the 8th century.
If that blast had been from a closer source, or had lasted longer, it could have wiped out the planet then. Next time, Earth might not get away so easily.
The Sun Eats Us Whole – Time Until Death: 1.5 to 2.25 billion years
It’s impossible to predict or plan for a gamma ray blast, and an asteroid may or may not annihilate our planet, although it’s a near certainty on a long-enough time scale. Still, maybe we figure out a way to prevent its impact, or survive the trauma of the ordeal.
Well, that would only be a temporary reprieve, because this one is a definitive planetary killer. Our Sun, the source of all life on the planet, will eat us whole in between 1.5 and 2.25 billion years.
The Sun is a yellow dwarf star, which means that on its way from middle age to death it will become a red giant star. At this point, it becomes exponentially larger in proportion than it is now, eventually growing in size to take up the entirety of our orbit. It’ll swallow up Mercury and Venus before boiling our oceans, blasting away our crust and eating us whole.
Collision with Neighbor Galaxy Andromeda – Time Until Death: 4 billion years
Hopefully in the next 2 billion years humanity will have made its escape from Earth, venturing perhaps into a nearby solar system before the sun eats us for breakfast. That’s great news, until the entire Milky Way violently collides with our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, in about 4 billion years, taking part in a galactic dance party which eventually will end with the two galaxies merging together.
Now, the scale of space is so infinite, and there’s such a great distance between each and every star, that on the whole, the galaxies and their hundreds of billions of stars and planets will glide harmlessly past one another. Still, other planets and stars will be gravitationally flung out of their orbits into the far reaches of space, and chain-reactions of supernovas and star formation could wreak havoc with the galaxy’s makeup.
(Bonus) The Whole Universe Ends – Time Until Death: 120 trillion years
Our universe is already approximately 13.7 billion years old. It’s been a pretty good run, but how long can it continue? Well, the universe won’t last forever, and the question isn’t if the universe dies, but how, and when.
Depending on the shape and makeup of the universe, to be determined largely upon how much dark matter actually exists out there, the universe could be closed, open or flat. If its closed, expansion eventually stops due to the effects of gravity, and the universe collapses in on itself. Goodbye.
If the universe is open, or flat, everything will eventually come to a close with the “Big Freeze”, also known as a heat death. Here, and in the most widely accepted theory at this time, expansion of the universe increases so much that all stars become incredibly distant from one another, and there’s basically not enough material on hand for new star formation to continue. No stars equals no life, and temperatures of absolute zero throughout the vacant cavern that was our universe.
All of this, and we haven’t even gotten into black holes, antimatter, being gravitationally knocked into the sun, and all other kinds of good stuff which could spell our demise. It’s going to be a fun couple of billion years for the planet!