According to current theory the universe is flying away from us at an accelerating rate. If so, being marooned in our part of the heavens is a real, if distant, possibility as other galaxies disappear over the horizon, according to the New York Times piece, "The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding." But here's the kicker. Though it might take 100 billion years, scientists on our galactic island will be alone in more ways than one:
Unable to see any galaxies flying away, those astronomers will notknow the universe is expanding and will think instead that they are back in the static island universe of Einstein. As [Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University and Robert J. Scherrer of Vanderbilt University,] who are physicists, write in a paper to be published in The Journal of Relativity and Gravitation, 'observers in our island universe will be fundamentally incapable of determining the true nature of the universe.'
In July, 2008 the European Space Agency will launch Planck, a mission to measure the relic radiation from roughly 14 billion years ago to find out which of the theories on the birth and evolution of the universe are correct. I'm sure science will find a way to keep the results around for future reference, but it's interesting to think that if current theories hold true and dark energy really is pushing the universe out at an accelerating rate, in a far, far distant future a certain measure of faith will be required to accept the evidence. "I don't see a thing!" and "It's out there?" Same deal.