First there is nothing – no time, no space, not even emptiness for there is no space to be empty. Then from this void suddenly explodes a universe far smaller than the tiniest speck of dust. And from this speck of dust, this infinite darkness will emerge all of creation.
The entire cosmos began as an incredibly dense primitive atom. Approximately 15 billion years ago this atom exploded with an intense force. This was not a usual blast, but rather an explosion filling all space with all of the particles of the developing universe charging away from each other. In 1927, the same year he got his PhD from MIT, Georges LeMaitre, a Belgian Jesuit priest and cosmologist proposed the theory in which he stated the expanding universe was the same in all directions (Big Bang 1). LeMaitre had no data to substantiate his theory; so many scientists ignored his theory.
Two years later in 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered that galaxies were moving away at high speeds. Imagine the galaxies hurrying away as in a movie; run the movie backwards and after a time all those galaxies will rush together. Hubble’s discovery showing the universe was expanding supported LeMaitre’s theory of 1927. An expanding universe, much like the after effects of an explosion, must have at one time been “unexploded,” a single mass in space and time (Hubble 1)
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The Big Bang symbolizes the instant the universe began, when time and space came into existence and all matter in the cosmos launched into expansion. Prior to this all four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces) were combined. The explosion was one of space within itself. It was not like the explosion of a bomb where fragments are thrown outward (LaRocco 1). The galaxies were not clumped together. During the first second or so of the universe large amounts of energy, known as photons, smashed together and changed their energy into mass. This caused the four forces to split into their separate identities. As the universe continued to cool, protons and neutrons combined to form helium and other light nuclei. It was not until around one million years after the Big Bang, nuclei and electrons were cool enough to unite to form atoms. The universe did not start to look as it does today until small deviations in the matter distribution were able to squeeze to form the stars and galaxies as they are known today.
The Big Bang Theory does a remarkable job of describing the universe, as it is known today. It explains the development of the universe, predicting the correct profusion of hydrogen and helium (the most common elements in the universe) and it accounts for the cosmic background radiation. Though it was very successful and few scientists doubt its validity, the Big Bang Theory was too simple to be complete.
Despite the name “Big Bang,” the big bang premise is not really a theory of a bang at all. It describes the aftermath of the bang. The theory expresses how the early, hot dense universe expanded and cooled. Light chemical elements were synthesized during the expansion and matter clotted to form galaxies and stars (Guth 1).
Yet, there is further evidence for the Big Bang. In 1964, two astronomers, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, in an effort to detect microwaves from outer space, accidentally discovered a noise of an extraterrestrial source. The noise did not seem to originate from one location but came from all directions at once (LaRocco 1). What Penzias and Wilson heard was radiation from the outermost reaches of the universe, which had been left over from the Big Bang. These radioactive leftovers from the initial explosion gave credibility to the Big Bang Theory.
In 1990 NASA’s Cosmic Explorer Background satellite took a detailed spectrum of microwave background radiation. These studies showed the radiation is in nearly perfect agreement with the Big Bang Theory. Two years later, the same instrument was used to discover tiny deviations in the background radiation, the earliest known proof of the structure of the universe (Big Bang Confirmed 1)
The Big Bang attempts to clarify the origin and structure of the universe. It includes the talents of many individuals through the course of more than 150 years of study. The Big Bang Theory offers a feasible solution to one of the most pressing questions of all time — how did the universe begin. It is vital to understand, though, that the theory itself is continually being adjusted. As more observations are made and more research is conducted, the Big Bang becomes more complete and our knowledge of the origins of the universe more significant.
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