ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Astronomy & Space Exploration

Origins of the Universe

Updated on June 18, 2012

FAR HORIZONS

Space is so vast that astronomers have had to devise special units to keep their figures manageable. Their basic unit of distance is the light year - the distance light travels in one year, or 9.461 million million kilometres (about 6 million million miles). But they also use an even larger unit known as the parsec, which is equivalent to 3.26 light years.

PIGEON PUZZLE

The strongest piece of evidence in favour of the Big Bang theory-that a vast explosion brought the Universe into being - was disregarded for a time. This was because the evidence was thought to be caused by pigeon droppings on radio antennae. Technicians working for the US Bell Telephone Company blamed the birds when, in 1965, their equipment picked up radiation from space on a wavelength of 3.2cm. They were wrong.

The radiation was real, and its existence helped to confirm the Big Bang theory, first propounded in 1927 by the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966). Unknown to the technicians, US astronomer Robert Dicke had calculated in 1964 that precisely this sort of radiation should exist, on that wavelength, as an 'afterglow' of the Big Bang.

FIRST MOMENTS

Scientists have been able to construct a 'history' of the Universe back to a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang took place. At that moment, it is reckoned, there occurred the first comprehensible event of the creation: gravity broke free from the single unifying force that had hitherto existed. What happened before this is still a mystery. But scientists estimate that gravity broke free less than 1 second after the Big Bang-or a decimal point followed by 42 zeros and a 1.

CREATION'S CRUCIBLE

The figures involved in the concept of the Universe's origin are, in every sense, astronomical. A fraction of a second after creation, the temperature of the Uni- verse is calculated to have been more than 100,000 million degrees Centigrade. Only 60 seconds later it had fallen to 10,000 million degrees. Today the Universe's average temperature is - 270'C, just 3'C above absolute zero, the lowest possible temperature.

ARE WE ALIENS?

Life may have originated in space and been brought to Earth aboard a comet, according to a theory published in 1978 by the English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle and the Sri Lankan astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe. The creation of living material involves too many coincidences for it to have occurred on Earth. It required all the resources of space. They argue that life probably formed elsewhere, then was deposited here by accident and thrived in the favourable conditions.

RIDDLE OF THE NEUTRINO

Among the most mysterious components of the Universe are neutrinos. They are unimaginably tiny sub- atomic particles. Yet some scientists suspect that they may form 90 per cent of the mass of the Universe, providing enough gravitational pull to slow and eventually reverse the headlong flight of the galaxies. Despite their possibly central role as the Universe's glue, neutrinos are so difficult to study that their nature remains elusive. The particles. which travel at the speed of light, carry no electrical charge and can pass right through the Earth without even slowing down. Millions will pass through this page and through you in the time it takes to read it.

FINAL MYSTERY

The theory of how the Universe began may now be generally agreed, but the way in which it will end is not. Everything depends on the average density of the Universe's matter. If the density exceeds a certain critical point. there will be enough gravitational pull to draw the galaxies back together and possibly cause a new Big Bang.

But if the density is below this point then the galaxies will go on flying endlessly apart. At present, there does not seem to be enough mass to hold the Universe back from endless expansion. But there is evidence of considerable hidden mass, perhaps concealed in invisible black holes. So a new explosion of colliding galaxies could still occur thousands of millions of years from now.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Window Pain profile image

      Window Pain 6 years ago

      Until we understand gravity and have a Unified Theory we're really shooting in the dark. I agree with your excellent synopsis of the currently accepted theories but we don't even have a clue about things still undiscovered.

      Gravity is so very perplexing. It is by far the weakest of the known forces, yet BY FAR the furthest reaching in its affect. That is a paradox of galactic proportions hidden within, well, we know not what or even where to start looking.

      The CERN collider, although one of humanity's greatest technological achievements really just smashes things together at relativistic speeds and watches things blow up. Imagine if we tried to study amoeba with the same methodology? What could we ever learn?

      We've got a LONG way to go.

      Unless the US military releases all its secret technology gained from cooperative aliens. [no, I'm not kidding]

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)