Ultimate fate of the universe
The ultimate fate of the universe is a topic in physical cosmology
Physical cosmology
Physical cosmology, as a branch of astronomy, is the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution. For most of human history, it was a branch of metaphysics and religion...

. Many possible fates are predicted by rival scientific theories, including futures of both finite and infinite duration.

Once the notion that the universe started with a rapid inflation nicknamed the Big Bang
Big Bang
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the young Universe to cool and resulted in...

 became accepted by the majority of scientists, the ultimate fate of the universe became a valid cosmological question, one depending upon the physical properties of the mass/energy in the universe, its average density, and the rate of expansion.
The theoretical scientific exploration of the ultimate fate of the universe became possible with Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

's 1916 theory of general relativity
General relativity
General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics...