So, what is the BIG BANG theory?
Dream with me again. When you look up at the sky at night, you see many stars, some planets, and the moon. Imagine all the stars in the entire universe, all the planets, the earth, the moon, and the sun. Now look at your hand. Squeeze all the stars in the entire universe into the size of your hand. Based on Big Bang theory, the entire universe was squeezed into something smaller than your hand. In fact, you would not be able to see it. All the matter of the universe would appear to have come from nothing.
At the very beginning, the universe was totally different than what you or I could imagine. Atoms could not exist due to the extreme conditions. For instance, heat was higher than you could imagine. And the pressure was higher than you could imagine. Due to the heat and pressure being so high, atoms could not form. All atoms were split up into smaller parts called subatomic particles. As the story goes, the subatomic particles suddenly expanded into a larger volume. In the beginning of this new theory, one scientist (Sir Fred Hoyle) poked fun by calling it the Big Bang Theory. Funny thing, the name stuck! According to the theory, the entire universe gushed out of that small volume. As it expanded, the heat and pressure fell to lower levels. After a large amount of time passed, the heat fell to levels that allowed atoms to form from the subatomic particles. At that time, light appeared and made a form of radiation called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). This idea is very important and from hereon I will refer to it as CMB. Some web sites refer to this event as a "wall of light." From a creation view, it is interesting that scientist say that light appeared long before the stars were formed. A long time after atoms formed and the first light came forth, the first stars and galaxies began to form. This is the beginning story of the Big Bang Theory.
Scientists have studied the Big Bang theory since 1933. In 1948, a scientist named George Gamow came to expect that the Big Bang would have caused the CMB light. In 1950, two more scientists named Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman came up with the same idea. Since the Big Bang pointed to this CMB light, could scientists find it?
Scientist got lucky. In 1965, two men named Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson by chance found the CMB. Since then, other tests have been done that have studied the CMB to great depths. In the USA, NASA launched the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite in 1992, called COBE. This satellite was only used to obtain the most advanced data about the CMB radiation. Since the results from the satellite were so good, the director gave a unique press release.
"We now have direct evidence of the birth of the Universe and its evolution ... ripples in space-time laid down earlier than the first billionth of a second. If you're religious it's like seeing God." George Smoot US astrophysicist. [Attributed remark 1992]
Things continued to improve. NASA launched a more advanced mission called WMAP on June 30, 2001. The goal was to collect even better data than the COBE satellite. The more advanced WMAP satellite produced a sharp focused image of the CMB compared to an out of focus picture from the COBE satellite. Scientists fine-tuned their views of the universe and concluded that the CMB light occurred about 379,000 years after the beginning as hypothesized in the Big Bang Theory.
We need to think about why finding the CMB was so important. First of all, a scientist predicts the CMB before it is found. The forecast is based on natural laws that use math. Then someone finds what was predicted. Based on this way of doing science, the idea appears to be based on sound reasoning. This is why finding the CMB in 1965 made the Big Bang Theory look so good.
Scientists who thought the universe was eternal (steady state universe) could not explain the CMB. Despite this downfall, a few scientists continue to think the "steady state" universe is correct.
Let's move to the next big find. It required us to take photos from the edge of the visible universe using the most advanced telescope of modern science. Let's take a view through the Hubble Space Telescope.
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Is the universe too old to birth new stars?