This image shows how one artist has drawn the Big Bang. The Big Bang is a theory that explains the origins of the Universe through a massive explosion.
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Back to Cosmology
The History of the Universe in 60 Seconds or Less - Dr. Eric Schulman - streaming RealVideo (1 min. 16 sec.) from NSF
Einstein's Messengers - LIGO Documentary - streaming RealVideo (20 min. 12 sec.) from NSF
A Matter of Scale - interactive showing the sizes of things, from very tiny to huge - from NSF
The History of the Universe
The theory that best explains the current universe is the Big
theory. This theory states that, in the beginning, the
universe was all in one place. All of its matter and energy were
squished into an infinitely small point, a singularity. The laws of
physics which applied at that instant are not understood at all.
Something unknown caused the universe to explode, and thus began the
that we see today.
The early universe was small, so everything happened very quickly
compared to the timescales on which events happen for the present
universe. At the start, the universe was very small and dense. This
stage was called the primordial fireball. For the first second,
only elementary particles, such as protons, neutrons, and electrons,
could exist. But the universe quickly cooled and expanded. For about
the next 500,000 years, electromagnetic radiation (light) was the most
important thing in the universe and hence this time was known as the
radiation era. When the universe had cooled to the point where
the simplest atoms (hydrogen) could form, radiation no longer
dominated and matter took over. The cosmic microwave background
radiation was produced at this time. So began the matter
era in which the universe exists now.
So how old is the universe? There is much debate over the current age
of the universe among astrophysicists. But everyone agrees that it
is somewhere between 10 and 20 billion years old.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist
, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store
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