How was the universe created? Throughout the ages, there has been much debate and conjectures about how the universe started. Let’s skip over the creationist ideas, the older theories that have been rejected and jump straight into the science.
Two main techniques exist for dating the age of the Universe. The first is examining the oldest stars and galaxies and considering the time they take to form, then working backwards for a timeline.
The second is to look at the expansion rate of the known universe and using this in reverse to estimate the time when all of the matter was at a single point. This uses the theory of the big bang theory.
Therefore scientists have estimated the age of the Universe to be around 13.8 billion years old, with a margin for error, this estimate is constantly being refined and updated.
During the big bang, matter spewed forth in the most cataclysmic explosion to have ever occurred within the Universe. It was sent out at incredible speeds in all directions, cooling and combining over time to become the known universe.
After the universe started to cool, the particles and gasses began to form matter, first subatomic particles, followed by atoms, then the primeval gasses. The majority of the gasses in these giant clouds were Hydrogen, however, they there were small amounts of Helium and Lithium also.
How the Universe Started
The big bang theory is now relatively well accepted by most cosmologists and physicists. Not only does it explain the observable universe, it also fits with historical movements and allows us to identify the starting point in time for the creation of all matter. We are able to track the big bang backwards until the very instant of the explosive start.
However, we have no clue as to where the matter came from and or how all of the matter came into being. We have no knowledge and the universe so far has not been able to provide us with any clues as to what caused the big bang.
In 1974, Stephen Hawking provided a theoretical argument about a type of black-body radiation named Hawking radiation, which was later named after him. It was theorised that Hawking Radiation would be emitted by black holes, due to quantum effects.
Recently evidence of this type of radiation has been found that dates back to before the big bang. This would imply that there were black holes that existed before our universe had started.
This poses some fascinating questions, including, have there been other Universes in existence before our own, is it a repeating process, can we detect these past universes through these remnants of black holes, and can we map what has come before?
How do we know the big bang occurred?
One thing that highlights the likelihood of the big bang theory is that the universe is still expanding. It isn’t slowing down either, rather getting faster as it goes. Why is it speeding up? We don’t have any definitive answers, but we do have a couple of well-known theories that await more data.
One of these theories is that the continual expansion of the universe is due to dark energy. This theory states that there was a third dark energy incident, in which it sped up the universes expansion process faster than our astronomers had predicted. Creating outward pressure through repulsion of regular matter.
Alternatively, there might be less dark energy than we think, and instead, the universe is speeding up because of some unknown new force or some different characteristic of space that is affecting the universe as a whole.
More evidence that supports the Big Bang theory is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. In the 1960s Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson attempted to tune into the microwave silence, being transmitted from the Milky Way. During their experiment, the antenna kept receiving a continual, weak, fizzing noise.
Arno and Robert decided to rebuild the antenna to eradicate this strange noise, assuming it was a technical defect or issue with the construction process. Every time they rebuilt the equipment more and more precisely, but kept picking up the odd fizzing noise or interference.
This fizzing noise ended up being confirmed as the echo of the Big Bang itself. This came to be known as the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR). The CMBR turned out to be leftover noise from the creation of the universe, essentially it is minute radiation across the spectrum.
You can actually test for this radiation yourself, simply turn your television on and switch to an unused station. The static that you see on the screen is the background radiation which comes from the creation of the universe.
The CMBR is only 3 degrees Celsius above absolute zero, making it negative 270 degrees Celsius and is able to be heard from all directions, assuming you have the correct type of equipment, filtering out other noise and information can make this difficult.
What Happened After the Big Bang?
Before even a second had passed, after the instant of the Big Bang, protons and neutrons began forming. In minutes the protons and neutrons combined to make nuclei.
The next step took a little longer, around three-hundred and eighty thousand years in fact, for the nuclei to catch electrons. At this point, the first atoms were formed.
The most abundant elements then, Hydrogen and Helium, are still the most abundant elements in the universe. Certainly other elements have come into existence as stars burn their fuel, collapse and go through stellar evolution.
These enormous clouds of gasses were what scientists believe formed the first stars approximately 150 – 200 million years after the Big Bang.
Additionally, humans have managed to create elements that could not exist naturally, that require additional heat, interactions, or special conditions. It does make one wonder what other elements may be possible, and if there are extra terrestrials, what elements could they have created and be using?
Heavier, naturally occurring elements, such as Carbon, Oxygen and Iron are being produced continuously in the center of suns, and are then catapulted throughout the known universe when a sun goes Nova.
Fun fact: all of the gold on Earth was made in the powerful explosions of Super Nova’s.