Melodysheep published an amazing video titled “Timelapse of the future: a journey to the end of time”. This experience takes us on a journey to the end of time, trillions of trillions of years into the future, to discover what the fate of our planet, our sun, and our universe may ultimately be.
If this video won’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will.
Main events in the timelapse of the future
As explained in the video description, this is a picture of the future as painted by modern science. It can change at any time with new scientific discoveries.
The video starts in 2019 and travels exponentially through time (doubling the speed every 5 seconds).
Despite being 13.8 billion years old, the Universe has only just begun (you’ll see).
2019: Anthropocene era
We, humans, changed the world so much that now we can say the world entered a completely new geological era, “Anthropocene“, scientists say.
40,000: Voyager 1 passes the nearby star
Now, Voyager 1 is headed towards is headed toward an encounter with AC +79 3888, also known as Gliese 445, located 17.6 light-years from Earth. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will be closer to this star than our own sun.
1,000,000 (106): Apollo footprints fade
About one million years from now, the footprints of Apollo astronauts on the Moon’s surface will fade.
Yes, there is no wind, erosion, or volcanic activity on the Moon. But, there’s one thing: the lunar dust was created (and still is being created) by the meteor impacts. Although there’s no wind to move this dust around, over time, it becomes electrostatically charged from the Sun’s radiation. This causes it to levitate and create a very thin atmosphere of dust constantly rising and falling around.
Recent experiments and observations show that the dust builds up at a rate of about one millimeter per thousand years (it’s 10 times faster than scientists had believed before). That means, in one million years, all the items on the Moon would be under a meter of dust.
250,000,000 (2.5×108): new supercontinent
Pangaea Ultima. At 250 million years in the future, the Atlantic is predicted to have closed. North America is predicted to have already collided with Africa, but be in a more southerly position than where it drifted. South America is predicted to be wrapped around the southern tip of Africa, completely enclosing the Indo-Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean will have grown wider, encircling half the Earth.
600,000,000 (6×108): photosynthesis begins to cease
The luminosity of the Sun will steadily increase, resulting in a rise in solar radiation reaching the Earth. This will result in a higher rate of weathering of silicate minerals, which will cause a decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In about 600 million years from now, the level of carbon dioxide will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees. Some plants use the C4 carbon fixation method, allowing them to persist at carbon dioxide concentrations as low as 10 parts per million.
850,000,000 (8.5×108): all plant life dies
However, the long-term trend is for plant life to die off altogether. The extinction of plants will be the demise of almost all animal life since plants are the base of the food chain on Earth.
1,000,000,000 (109): oceans evaporate
In about one billion years, solar luminosity will be some 10% higher than what it is today. This will cause the atmosphere to become a “moist greenhouse”, resulting in a runaway evaporation of the oceans. As a likely consequence, plate tectonics will come to an end, and with them the entire carbon cycle.
2,800,000,000 (2.8×109): all life on Earth dies
By 2.8 billion years from now, the surface temperature of the Earth will have reached 422 K (149 °C; 300 °F), even at the poles. The atmosphere of Earth will be in a “super-greenhouse” state, like today’s Venus. At this point, any remaining life will be extinguished due to extreme conditions.
4,500,000,000 (2.8×109): Andromeda galaxy collides with the Milky Way (not shown in the video)
5,500,000,000 (5.5×109): Sun becomes a red giant
In approximately 5-5.5 billion years, the sun will begin the helium-burning process, turning into a red giant star. When it expands, its outer layers will consume Mercury and Venus, and reach Earth.
Scientists are still debating whether or not our planet will be engulfed, or whether it will orbit dangerously close to the dimmer star.
8,500,000,000 (8.5×109): Earth destroyed by the dying Sun
The Sun does not have nearly enough mass to become a supernova. After the red giant stage, it will shed its outer layers as a planetary nebula – destroying Earth during this process.
10,000,000,000 (1010): Sun becomes a white dwarf
In its final stage, the Sun will collapse into a white dwarf. A white dwarf is what stars like the Sun become after they have exhausted their nuclear fuel. Near the end of its nuclear burning stage, this type of star expels most of its outer material, creating a planetary nebula. Only the hot core of the star remains. This core becomes a very hot white dwarf, with a temperature exceeding 100,000 Kelvin.
So, the Sun will lose about half of its mass. This will have a significant effect on the orbit of outer planets, causing them to migrate outwards.
While it is possible that some planet’s orbits may become unstable and get ejected from the solar system, it is more likely that they will settle into a new, wider orbit around the white dwarf.
The Sun is now dead. In the coming billions of years, it will become colder and colder in the freezing temperatures of deep space.
1 trillion (1012): Star formation ceases. The remaining stars begin to die
According to a 2012 study, half of all the stars that have ever existed were created between 9 and 11 billion years ago, with the other half created in the years since. What this means is an exponential fall in new stars being born, to the point that no more than 5 percent more stars will form over the remaining history of the Universe, even if we wait forever.
100 trillion (1014): Degenerate era – star formation completely ends. Last red dwarfs die
By 1014 (100 trillion) years from now, star formation will end, leaving all stellar objects in the form of degenerate remnants. If protons do not decay, stellar-mass objects will disappear more slowly, making this era last longer. This period, known as the Degenerate Era, will last until the degenerate remnants finally decay.
With the death of the last star, the age of starlight comes to an end. But, still, the life of the universe has just begun.
Even so, there can still be occasional light in the universe. One of the ways the universe can be illuminated is if two carbon-oxygen white dwarfs with a combined mass of more than the Chandrasekhar limit of about 1.4 solar masses happen to merge. The resulting object will then undergo runaway thermonuclear fusion, producing a Type Ia supernova and dispelling the darkness of the Degenerate Era for a few weeks.
If the combined mass is not above the Chandrasekhar limit but is larger than the minimum mass to fuse carbon (about 0.9 M☉), a carbon star could be produced, with a lifetime of around one million years.
Also, if two helium white dwarfs with a combined mass of at least 0.3 M☉ collide, a helium star may be produced, with a lifetime of a few hundred million years.
Finally, brown dwarfs can form new stars colliding with each other to form a red dwarf star, that can survive for 10 trillion years, or accreting gas at very slow rates from the remaining interstellar medium until they have enough mass to start hydrogen-burning as red dwarfs too. This process, at least on white dwarfs, could induce Type Ia supernovae too.
1000 trillion (1015): Degenerate era – the Sun is still a white dwarf
Our Sun is still a white dwarf, like many others. With no fuel left to burn, a white dwarf’s faint glow comes from the last residual heat from its extinguished furnace.
Looking at our Sun from where is Earth now, it would only generate the same amount of light as the full moon on a clear night.
Over time, the orbits of planets will decay due to gravitational radiation, or planets will be ejected from their local systems by gravitational perturbations caused by encounters with another stellar remnant.
10 to 100 quintillion (1019 to 1020): Degenerate era – stellar remnants escape galaxies or fall into black holes
Gravity ejects dead stars and planets from their galaxies, sending them out into the freezing void.
Most objects (90% to 99%) are ejected from the galaxy, leaving a small fraction (maybe 1% to 10%) that fall into the central supermassive black hole. Occasionally, colliding neutron stars puncture the darkness with ultra-bright supernovae.
100 billion trillion (1023): Degenerate era – only possible life around white dwarfs
Any surviving life forms may find refuge around aging white dwarfs.
1 trillion trillion (1024): Degenerate era – white dwarfs start to become black dwarfs
But, in time, even white dwarfs will fade and die. A black dwarf will be the final fate of these last “stars”. A black dwarf is a white dwarf that has become so cold, that it barely emits any more heat or light.
Black dwarfs are dark, dense, decaying balls of degenerated matter.
Because stars take so long to reach that state (way longer than the current age of the universe, which is 13.8 billion years), no black dwarfs are expected to exist in the universe now,
10 thousand trillion trillion to 10 billion trillion trillion (1028 to 1034): Degenerate era – black holes are the last reliable energy source of the universe
As the black holes occasionally swallow stray matter, the swallowed material can form an external accretion disk heated by friction, forming some of the brightest objects in the universe, including quasars. So, the rotational energy of black holes will be the last reliable energy source for any exotic future civilization.
10 billion trillion trillion (1034): Degenerate era – the expansion of spacetime
As the expansion of the Universe accelerates, it begins to spread matter apart faster than the speed of light. By this point, even the light can’t travel between the stray matter – the secrets of the cosmos are locked away forever.
10 billion trillion trillion to one thousand trillion trillion trillion (1034 to 1039): Degenerate era – nucleon decay
The subsequent evolution of the universe depends on the possibility and rate of proton decay. Experimental evidence shows that if the proton is unstable, it has a half-life of at least 1034 years.
Neutrons bound into nuclei are also expected to decay with a half-life comparable to that of protons.
In the event that the proton does not decay at all, stellar objects would still disappear, but more slowly.
Ten thousand trillion trillion trillion (1040): Degenerate era ends – all nucleons decay. Black hole era begins
As all the protons and neutrons decay, all matter that managed to evade swallowed by black holes dies away as its protons disintegrate.
From now on, there are no planets, no stars, no lingering stellar remnants for life to cling to.
Yet, even now, the time has only just begun o tick.
On the scale of a human lifetime, the universe has just emerged from the womb.
Cold, dark, and empty. This is how the Universe will spend most of its life.
Our Universe gives life only a brief moment to shine – a haven in time, safe from its fiery birth and icy death.
Proton decay is still unproven, so, this chapter of the timelapse of the future could look very different in light of new discoveries.
After 1040 years, black holes will dominate the universe. They will be the fundamental building blocks of the cosmos.
A galaxy, if we can call it a galaxy still, will basically be a supermassive black hole in the center, with smaller black holes orbiting it.
In this age, black hole mergers will be the main events in the Universe.
When black holes merge, they send out powerful gravitational waves that resonate throughout the Universe.
But, even the black holes will slowly evaporate via Hawking radiation Notes 1. They evaporate away at an increasing rate until they vanish in a gigantic explosion.
A black hole with a mass of around 1 M☉ (one solar mass) will vanish in around 2×1066 years.
More massive black holes take longer to decay. A supermassive black hole with a mass of 1011 (100 billion) M☉ will evaporate in around 2×10100 years.
10 duotrigintillion years or 1 googol (10100 ): Dark Era and Photon Age
After all the black holes have evaporated (and after all the ordinary matter made of protons has disintegrated, if protons are unstable), the universe will be nearly empty. Photons, neutrinos, electrons, and positrons will fly from place to place, hardly ever encountering each other. Gravitationally, the universe will be dominated by dark matter, electrons, and positrons (not protons).
By this era, with only very diffuse matter remaining, activity in the universe will have tailed off dramatically (compared with previous eras), with very low energy levels and very large time scales.
Electrons and positrons drifting through space will encounter one another and occasionally form positronium atoms. These structures are unstable, however, and their constituent particles must eventually annihilate. Other low-level annihilation events will also take place, albeit very slowly. The universe now reaches an extremely low-energy state.
Beyond 102500 years (10 duotrigintaoctingentillion years)
What happens beyond 102500 years is speculative.
It is possible that a Big Rip event may occur far off into the future. This means the matter of the Universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, and even spacetime itself is progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future.
Another possibility, if the current vacuum state is a false vacuum, the vacuum may decay into a lower-energy state.
The universe could possibly avoid eternal heat death through random quantum tunneling and quantum fluctuations, given the non-zero probability of producing a new Big Bang in roughly 101,0560,000,000,000 years.
The possibilities above are based on a simple form of dark energy. But the physics of dark energy is still a very active area of research, and the actual form of dark energy could be much more complex. For example, during inflation dark energy affected the universe very differently than it does today, so it is possible that dark energy could trigger another inflationary period in the future. Until dark energy is better understood its possible effects are extremely difficult to predict or parametrize.
Discovering the true nature of dark energy could change our vision of the future dramatically.
If it somehow weakens over time, for example, the Universe could collapse under gravity – a big crunch.
Given a boost – then the Big Rip, which is mentioned above.
1. Hawking radiation
According to quantum mechanics, space is filled with virtual particles and antiparticles that are constantly materializing in pairs – separating, coming together again, and annihilating each other.
In the presence of a black hole, one member of a pair of virtual particles may fall into the hole, leaving the other member without a partner with which to annihilate.
The forsaken particle appears to be radiation emitted by the black hole. This radiation is called Hawking Radiation, named after the physicist Stephen Hawking (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018), who provided a theoretical argument for its existence in 1974.
- Future of Earth on Wikipedia
- “Red Giant Stars: Facts, Definition & the Future of the Sun” on Space.com
- White Dwarf Stars on the NASA website
- Future of an expanding universe on Wikipedia
- “The Universe will stop making new stars very soon – no more than 5% more stars will be born” on the ZME Science website
- Black Hole on Wikipedia