Big bang theory
In astronomy, the explosive event that marked the origin of the universe as we know it. At the time of the Big Bang, the entire universe was squeezed into a hot, superdense state. The Big Bang explosion threw this compact material outwards, producing the expanding universe seen today (see red shift). The cause of the Big Bang is unknown; observations of the current rate of expansion of the universe suggest that it took place about 10-20 billion years ago. The Big Bang theory began modern cosmology.
According to the modern modified version of the Big Bang theory, called the inflationary theory, the universe underwent a rapid period of expansion shortly after the Big Bang, which accounts for its current large size and uniform nature. The inflationary theory is supported by the most recent observations of the cosmic background radiation.
Present quantum theory and relativity theory break down when pushed back to earlier than 10−43 seconds, which is known as the Planck time. (10−43 is equal to 1÷1043; and 1043 is equal to 1 followed by 43 zeroes.) The present-day observable universe was then smaller than a proton and the temperature was 1032 K (kelvins - equal in size to degrees Celsius). Inflation began now or an instant later, and ended when 10−33 seconds had passed. The universe observable today was then a metre across.
One ten-thousandth of a second after the Big Bang, the temperature had decreased enormously, but was still 10 billion K (1010 K). Subatomic particles had formed by the collision of quarks. After 10 seconds, neutrons had combined with protons to form nuclei of deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen). The nuclei of deuterium then joined together to form helium nuclei. As the universe continued to expand for the next 300,000 years, the temperature cooled to 10,000 K. Under these conditions helium nuclei were able to join with electrons to form helium atoms. Some hydrogen nuclei joined to form lithium nuclei and thence lithium atoms. After millions of years, at lower temperature and pressure, the force of gravity was able to draw particles together. After millions more years, matter clumped together to form galaxies, stars, planets, and moons.
The first detailed images of the universe as it existed 300,000 years after the Big Bang were released by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in April 2000. The images were created by mapping cosmic background radiation.
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