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The Big Bang Theory

The Scoop

This site is about the geology of New Hampshire and how its landscape came to be. The geological history of the Granite State will be explored starting from the beginning of the Universe, about 14 billion years ago, and going right up to the collapse of the Old Man in the Mountain on the night May 2 and the early morning hours of May 3, 2003. Before we learn what geologists have to say about our unique and very interesting geological history, let’s review our place in the cosmos.

You Are Here

We live on the planet Earth that, along with the Moon, is circling our star, the Sun. Together with the seven other planets (sorry, Pluto is now considered a "Dwarf Planet" and a member of the Kuiper Belt), their moons and the countless asteroids and comets, we make up the Solar System. The Sun is one star out of hundreds of billions of stars arranged in a giant spiral shape, we call the Milky Way Galaxy. Our galaxy is accompanied by about 20 other galaxies, known as The Local Group, as we travel through the Universe. Present estimates place the number of galaxies in the known universe in the hundreds of billions. Where did all these planets, stars and galaxies come from and how long have they been around?

How to Start a Universe from Scratch – The Big Bang Theory

Most astronomers believe that the Big Bang Theory is the best current theory to explain the creation of the Universe. According to the Big Bang Theory, all matter and energy in the universe went from being confined to a single point, to being nearly 14 billion light years across (13.7 billion light years is the most recent estimate.)

Getting Larger Every Day

This matter and energy is now found in the billions of galaxies that make up the known universe. The universe is still getting larger as you read this. Most of the known galaxies are flying away from each other and our galaxy at very high speeds. In fact, the further away from us a galaxy is, the faster it is speeding away. If this sounds pretty incredible to you, you are in good company. Einstein himself was caught by surprise when it was found out that this was going on.

The Joke is On the Joker

In a way, it is kind of funny that we call this theory the “Big Bang”. The term “Big Bang” was originally used by someone who thought the theory was ridiculous. His effort to make the theory sound foolish didn’t work, and the name stuck.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Ultra Deep FieldThis image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is among the deepest image of the visible universe ever taken. These are some of the oldest galaxies ever seen. These galaxies formed 13 billion years ago during what astronomers call the "dark ages," the time shortly after the Big Bang.
(Click on the image for a closer look.)
Image Credit: S. Beckwith & the HUDF Working Group (STScI), HST, ESA, NASA

A Likely Story

The universe is EVERYTHING that exists, not just here on Earth, but EVERYWHERE in space. It’s hard to believe that all of this stuff fit inside a single point at one time, isn’t it? No one can blame you, but until you come up with a better explanation of how the universe began, and back it up with supporting evidence like this current theory has, we’ll stick with this one.

This brings up a really important point: theories are not rock solid explanations or proof of anything, they are just the best explanation that fits all the evidence so far. For example, it used to be thought that the Earth was the center of the universe (and at the time this was the generally accepted theory, scientists didn’t even know about our galaxy, let alone the billions and billions of other galaxies that are out there). Their “proof” for this theory existed in the apparent motion of all objects in the sky: the Sun, Moon, planets and stars seeming to go around us here on Earth. That’s pretty hard evidence to argue against, but today we know this apparent motion is due to the real motions of the Earth; rotation (spinning) about its axis and revolution (orbiting) around the Sun. It is not because everything is going around the Earth.



Is the Proof in the Pudding?

Did the original theory provide "proof"?

No, but it was the best explanation at the time.

Was the original theory a "guess"?

Not entirely. It was, in part, backed up by confirmed observations, otherwise known as facts. The same arguments can be made today for the Big Bang Theory. So far, however, it is holding up pretty well and has even had some predictions confirmed.

Claudius Ptolemy (ca. 100-170)

PtolemyPtolemy was a Greek scientist and philosopher who lived and worked in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote books on astronomy, mathematics and geography.

Ptolemy theorized that the Earth was the center of the universe and the Sun, Moon, stars and planets revolved around us.

One of his books, The Almagest, included a catalog of 1022 stars with estimates of their brightness. The stars were organized into 48 constellations. Those 48 constellations formed the basis of today's constellation system. There are now 88 constellations, Over the years, scientists added new constellation from portions of the sky that Ptolemy couldn't see from Egypt.
(Click on the image for a closer look.)

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)

CopernicusNicolas Copernicus was a Polish scientist and astronomer. He is best known for his theory that the Sun is the center of the universe and the Earth, Moon, planets and stars revolve around the Sun in a circular orbit. This is known as the heliocentric or sun-centered system.
(Click on the image for a closer look.)

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

NewtonSir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician and and physicist. He is the inventor of calculus, came up with Newton's Law of Gravitation, which describes the gravitational attraction between objects and states that the gravitational attraction between objects is determined by the mass of the objects and the distance between them. Newton's Law of Gravitation is used to figure out the mass of objects and the interactions between celestial bodies.

Newton also discovered the three laws of motion. The first law states that an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion - in a straight line - unless the object is acted upon by an outside force. This is also know as the Law of Inertia. The second law states thatit takes a force to move a mass and is represented by the mathematical statement that "f=ma" where "f" represents force, "m" represents mass that is multiplied by "a" which represents acceleration. The third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
(Click on the image for a closer look.)