History of the Big Bang

 

The Universe started with the Big Bang about 14,000 million years ago (14,000,000,000 years). It started out very, very hot and has been expanding and cooling since then.

For the first tiny fraction of a second, everything was so hot, that we cannot describe what it was like, but we can use our knowledge of physics to give us a good idea of what was happening from as little as 10-43 seconds (that is 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds!) after the beginning.

The main stages are:

Big Bang Timeline
Credit: NSO
  • Up to 10-6 seconds: Particle Physics dominates

    This early on, the Universe is so hot that none of the "normal" physics around us works and even forces like gravity act differently. Experiments in giant Particle Accelerators are helping us to understand this better.

     

  • To about 1 second: Protons and Neutrons created

    As the Universe cools a little bit, some sub-atomic particles like protons and neutrons can be created from even smaller particles like Quarks that were all that could exist before.

     

  • At about 1 second: Making elements

    After 1 second, things have cooled down enough so that normal elements like Hydrogen can exist in some form. The amount of hydrogen in the Universe is one of the pieces of evidence for the Big Bang.

     

  • At about 380,000 years: Normal atoms created

    By this time the Universe is cool enough for normal atoms without any electrical charge to exist. This is when the Cosmic Microwave Background was formed - one of the most important pieces of evidence for the Big Bang.

     

  • After about 400 million years: The first stars

    Gravity helps the first stars in the Universe to form.

     

  • 1000s of millions of years: Galaxies

    Slowly the galaxies form.

     

  • About 5,000 million years ago: The Solar System

    More recently, the Solar System began to form in our own galaxy the Milky Way.

     

  • Today:

    Today the Universe contains planets, stars, galaxies, dust, gas and many other strange particles. It is expanding and astronomers are trying to discover what its final fate will be.