Adventures from Back of Beyond

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Our Ultimate Demise

And by "our", I mean every one of us, living or dead, whoever and wherever, in the entire 4.7 billion history of our planet.

The previous end result by my reckoning was the incineration of the Earth when the sun ages and cools into a red supergiant, roughly another 4 billion years hence. Our sun currently is a roughly middle-aged star, at 4.7 billion years. As it burns its raw fuel of hydrogen, the sun will cool and expand, eventually with a diameter extending possibly out 93 million miles to the orbit of the Earth. In this scenario, every bit of matter on this planet will eventually be consumed by the sun, and presumably re-radiated by its nuclear furnace back out into the universe.

Now the latest theory, according to astronomers at the Smithsonian-Harvard Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, as quoted in the April '08 issue of Smithsonian, is for an interceding event of even greater cosmic proportion rendering moot our sun's penultimate fate. And that gargantuan event is theorized to be nothing less than the collision of our entire Milky Way galaxy, and all the 200 billion stars and planets therein contained, with our neighboring Andromeda galaxy, which is of similar size and scope, and now located some 2 million light years distant. This process of merging is estimated to begin a scant 2 billion years in the future.

By irresistible gravitational pull, gradually the combined galaxy "Milkomeda" will form, with a supermassive black hole at its core. From the energy released by that that all-devouring singularity, a new quasar will ignite and burn brilliantly for a relatively short period of time, blasting back out into the universe all matter it consumes. That presumably includes you and I and everything on our planet. At least according to theory.

So in a real way that means we're all in this together, now and in our ultimate shared future. Every atom on this planet, every molecule in your body, the calcium in your bones, the water in your blood, the air in your lungs, what you are physically, everything -- will at some point be shot out into space by this quasar.

Perhaps then our atoms will recombine and recycle in some way, at another time, in another place.

In the meantime (only 2 billion years left!), be kind to one another, and to our planet for that matter. We are all children of God, every one of us, and everything here. And we're all in this together in more ways than one.