The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that describes 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 Universe to cool and resulted in its present continuously expanding state. According to the most recent measurements and observations, the Big Bang occurred approximately 13.75 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the Universe. After its initial expansion from a singularity, the Universe cooled sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. While protons and neutrons combined to form the first atomic nuclei only a few minutes after the Big Bang, it would take thousands of years for electrons to combine with them and create electrically neutral atoms. The first element produced was hydrogen, along with traces of helium and lithium. Giant clouds of these primordial elements would coalesce through gravity to form stars and galaxies, and the heavier elements would be synthesized either within stars or during supernovae.
The Big Bang is a well-tested scientific theory and is widely accepted within the scientific community. It offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of observed phenomena. Since its conception, abundant evidence has been uncovered in support of the model. The core ideas of the Big Bang—the expansion, the early hot state, the formation of helium, and the formation of galaxies—are derived from many observations that are independent from any cosmological model; these include the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure, and the Hubble diagram for Type Ia supernovae. As the distance between galaxy clusters is increasing today, it can be inferred that everything was closer together in the past. This idea has been considered in detail back in time to extreme densities and temperatures, and large particle accelerators have been built to experiment in such conditions, resulting in further development of the model. On the other hand, these accelerators have limited capabilities to probe into such high energy regimes. There is little evidence regarding the absolute earliest instant of the expansion. Thus, the Big Bang theory cannot and does not provide any explanation for such an initial condition; rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the universe going forward from that point on.
Georges Lemaître first proposed what would become the Big Bang theory in what he called his "hypothesis of the primeval atom." Over time, scientists would build on his initial ideas to form the modern synthesis. The framework for the Big Bang model relies on Albert Einstein's general relativity and on simplifying assumptions such as homogeneity and isotropy of space. The governing equations had been formulated by Alexander Friedmann. In 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered that the distances to far away galaxies were generally proportional to their redshifts—an idea originally suggested by Lemaître in 1927. Hubble's observation was taken to indicate that all very distant galaxies and clusters have an apparent velocity directly away from our vantage point: the farther away, the higher the apparent velocity.
While the scientific community was once divided between supporters of the Big Bang and those of alternative cosmological models, most scientists became convinced that some version of the Big Bang scenario best fit observations after the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964, and especially when its spectrum (i.e., the amount of radiation measured at each wavelength) was found to match that of thermal radiation from a black body. Since then, astrophysicists have formulated further hypotheses to account for some discrepancies that have arisen within the model.
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Famous quotes containing the words bang and/or big:
“This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
—T.S. (Thomas Stearns)
“Dr. Floyd, I hope you dont think Im being too inquisitive but perhaps you can clear up the great big mystery about what has been going on up there.”
—Stanley Kubrick (b. 1928)