The Structure of the Universe

Decades of research conducted on the universe have shown many varying theories about its creation and existence. The universe is everything that exists, such as matter, planets, stars, space and galaxies. One of the theories that explains the existence and evolution of the universe is the Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory specifies that the universe was formed after the occurrence of a gigantic explosion. The stars and all the galaxies present today evolved from the matter and energy that was hurled from that blast. American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble was the brains behind the Big Bang Theory. He made attempts to show how the earth expanded from a common source due to the Big Bang Theory (Lineweaver and Davis).

The Big Bang Theory brought forth the Big Crunch Theory which states that eventually the universe will stop expanding. He suggested that as gravity pulls on matter all around, the universe will begin to contract until such a time that it will fold back into the original and dense structure it initially was.

Understanding the Black Hole evolutional cycle makes it easy to comprehend the structure of the universe. The end life of any massive star results to formation of a black hole. Stars have deposits of fuel inside them. Any very large star undergoing combustion eventually wears off and finally explodes to form a supernova. The remnants of the burnt star crumbles to a dense object called a neutron star. A neutron star ends up becoming the black hole which is responsible for the production of gravitation force, a force strong enough to rupture atomic structure. The black hole’s mass is directly proportion to the mass of the millions of the suns which are located at the center of the galaxies.

The universe has also been posited to have come into existence through the Classical Theory. This is also referred to as the atomic structure. This theory brings out the extreme subatomic world of the universe. The atoms in the atomic structure are said to be made up of fundamental particles such as electrons, protons and neutrons. The nucleus encompasses balls of protons and neutrons that are packed tightly and the electrons that twirl around the electron shells at a maintained distance from the nucleus and at separate energy levels. There is a vast blankness between the electron shells and the nucleus (Hinshaw and Naeye).

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In 1964, Gell-Mann and Zweig George came up with a proposition that nuclear particles consisted of smaller but critical particles known as quarks. A neutron has one up quark and two down quarks while a proton consist of two up quarks and one down quark. Between the protons and neutrons, there exists a transfer medium called the gluon which is a strong force carrier. Under extreme pressures and temperatures, nuclear particles easily break down into quark-gluon plasma, QGP. On splitting, the atoms release energy similar to energy released by an atomic bomb. The transition of a star from an atomic structure to a nuclear particle structure forms a supernova. After a supernova, the remaining protons and neutrons collapse into a large dense core. The strong gravitation force compels both protons and neutrons to combine into neutrons. This is why the black hole’s inner core is made up of neutrons. The black hole evolution intensifies its absorption of energy and matter. The growth reaches a critical point where the temperature and pressure cause the nuclear particles to break into quarks. The effect of this breakdown is the turning off of the gravity switch. Practically most of the mass is lost during the breakdown and converted into a very huge quantity of energy which sets off a chain reaction that produces the quark-gluon plasma. The plasma produced ends up splitting the black hole apart and results in a big bang explosion.

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The universe is infinite. It stretches to great distances and it is occupied by several black holes. Any black hole will always reach a specific mass before exploding into a big bang that hurls energy and matter into far distances. The same material is reabsorbed by other black holes after a time. This process is continuous. 

With the exception of the knowledge we currently have regarding the origin and the structure of the universe, a mere gaze in the sky depicts a cosmic black canvas that has no end. The view is constrained due to aesthetic reasons such as light speed, the dimensions of the galaxy, number of atoms in the sun and the aging process of the universe among others. The observable universe as per the Big Bang Theory comprises of all the observable features of the human eye. The distance to the far end of the universe is roughly the same, hence the notion that the universe is spherical. The universe is viewed as both a visible and an observable universe. The visible universe includes the signals that are emitted after recombination while the observable universe includes the signals that have always been there since the beginning of the Big Bang traditional cosmology. As per the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR), particles emitting it show that the radius of the visible earth is approximately 14.2 billion parsecs or 45.7 billion light years and the distance to the edge of the observable universe shows that the radius of the universe is 14.5 billion parsecs. The universe is approximately 13.375 billion years. However, space has undergone a spontaneous expansion to a point where observable objects that were initially much closer, have now drifted further away (Peebles and Schramm).

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It is important to understand the origin of the universe before beginning on the views of the structure of the universe. The long tour regarding the origin of the universe starts with our understanding of the earth. The earth is only one of the objects that make up the solar system. The sun takes the central role in the solar system. The sun is also the largest object in the solar system. Of all the nine planets, Mercury is the nearest to the sun followed by Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Pluto is the farthest from the sun and at the edge of the solar system. All the nine planets orbit around the sun. The moon is the nearest major body to the earth and is four hundred thousand kilometers away. The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately one hundred and fifty million kilometers as compared to the distance between the sun and Pluto which is roughly six billion kilometers. Beyond Pluto is a vast empty space followed by a proximal centauri star which is roughly forty trillion kilometers away from the sun. This great distance is measured by astronomers in terms of the light year.

A light year is the distance travelled by light in a period of one year when moving at the speed of three hundred thousand kilometers per second. This is the time taken by light to travel from the sun to the earth. From the sun to proxima centauri, the distance taken by the light is over four light years. The sun and proxima centauri are only two of the numerous stars that comprise the Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers’ researches have shown that when the Milky Way galaxy is viewed from above, the central region is spherical with a number of spirals like arms which are the stars. The sun is found near the edge of one of these arms. The sun is estimated to lie about twenty eight thousand light years from the center of the galaxy. Around the center of the galaxy is a halo of old stars which extends in all directions for roughly fifty thousand light years (Peebles, Schramm, Turner and Kron).

The Milky Way contains over one hundred billion stars. These stars are separated from each other by many thousands of light years. They remain, however, attracted to each other and confined to the galaxy due to the force of gravity. Moving beyond the Milky Way, a hundred and seventy thousand light years away, is a small and irregular galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud. The observable universe shows that aside from these two galaxies, there are probably a hundred billion more galaxies of varying shapes and sizes. Galaxies exist as separate entities throughout the universe but are attracted to each other through gravitational forces. This is the why they remain grouped into clusters. The Milky Way galaxy belongs to a cluster referred to as the local group. Andromeda galaxy is the largest galaxy. Clusters of galaxies are grouped into super clusters with the local group of galaxies belonging to the local super cluster. The Virgo cluster is a cluster of galaxies found at the center of a local super cluster. Presently, distant but visible objects like quasars can be observed. Quasars emit so much energy. However, the sources of this energy have never been established.

The study of the universe is known as Cosmology. A cosmologist’s primary obligation is to understand how the universe has developed into its present state as well as predict how it is likely to behave in the future. Objects, such as galaxies, in the solar system have varying distances. Light from distant galaxies take billions of years to reach our solar system. Photographs taken of these galaxies are images of how these bodies looked like in the past but not at the present. Light emitted from these galaxies continues to move away from each other, hence implying that the universe has been expanding for at least ten billion years. Cosmology involves the formation of hypothesis or theories meant to make a phenomenon that can be tested with observations. The Big Bang Theory, the prevailing theory concerning the origin and evolution of the universe, has its cosmological concepts presented by the introduction of the main concepts of the theory, presentation of classic tests of the theory that makes it compelling to be the acceptable description of our universe and an accounting of the limitations and a detailed account of the Big Bang Theory model (Osterbrock, Gwinn and Brashear).

From 12 to 14 billion years ago, the universe was a little ball of fire. But over time, it has expanded from its previous hot and dense state to the current cooler and vast cosmos inhabited by all living things.

The Big Bang Theory can be explained in two standpoints: the general relativity principle and the cosmological principle. In 1916, Albert Einstein came up with a General Theory of Relativity in which he offered it as the new theory of gravity. The theory stemmed from Isaac Newton’s Theory of Gravity formulated in the 1680’s. Newton stated that gravity was only valid on bodies at rest or those moving very slowly. Einstein, however, proved that the theory of gravity is valid for bodies both at rest and in motion. The key concept rooted in the General Relativity Theory is that gravity can no longer be proven by the gravitational field, but rather by the distortion of time and space itself (Freedman).

John Wheeler, a physicist, stated that matter directs space how to curve and space in turn directs matter how to move. This notion explained the peculiarities lying behind the orbit of Mercury and the bending of light by the sun. The introduction of the General Relativity Principle saw the start of further creations by scientists. Einstein has also been praised for being behind the application of the new gravitational forces at work to the universe in its entirety.

The Cosmological principle was based on the assumption that matter in the universe is consistent and isotropic when averaged over very large scales. This assumption has continuously been tested throughout the exercise of observing the galaxy distribution. In addition, the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the residue of heat after the Big Bang explosion, exists uniformly over the whole sky. This has verified the probable theory that stated that the gas that emitted the cosmic microwave background radiation was evenly distributed.

The foundations of the Big Bang cosmology are based on the assumption that the universe is homogenous and isotropic. The corresponding distortion of space-time due to gravitational field shows that the universe exists in any one of the following forms: the universe can either be positively curved just as the surface of the ball and finite in its extent, and it can be negatively curved just as a saddle and infinite in its extent or flat and infinite in its extent. To explain these predictions, matter must be taken into consideration due to its vital role in cosmology. (Guth) The density of matter is directly proportional to the geometry of the universe. If matter density is less, the universe can appear infinite and open. If the density is greater then the universe is finite and closed. If the density is equalto its critical density, the universe is infinite and flat.

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Despite the fact that the universe has been expanding, evidence shows that the expansion has not been uniform over the years. This is due to the fact that the gravitational pull has been in effect and the questions concerning the fate of the universe is whether the pull will be strong enough to finally reverse the expansion of the universe to a point where it collapses back to its original form. The expansion of the universe, profusion of light elements and the cosmic microwave background radiation have been the three main measurable signatures that have supported the predictions of the Big Bang model. The Hubble constant proved Einstein’s general relativity correct after stating that the expansion of the universe deferred with distance. Edwin Hubble observed that galaxies were moving away from us with a speed that was proportional to their distance from us. They are moving faster than the speed of the light. This expansion rate accelerates due to the dark energy (Watson).

The test of the light elements is based on nucleosynthesis. This term refers to the formation of heavy elements, such as atomic nuclei, that has many protons and neutrons all from the fusion of lighter elements. As per the Big Bang predictions, the universe was dense and hot originally but one second after the explosion, the temperature of the universe intensified greatly and was full of protons, neutrons, electrons, anti-electrons, photons and neutrinos. The cooling of the universe led to the decay of neutrons to protons or the merging of protons to make an isotope of hydrogen. Minutes later the isotope formed helium and traces of lithium. This explains how light elements were formed through Big Bang nucleosynthesis (Linde).

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The Cosmic microwave background radiation is another fact that explains the Big Bang Theory. After the Big Bang explosion, the universe that was extremely hot has now been expanding causing the gasses within to cool. This resulted in the universe being filled with radiation. The existence of the CMB radiation was predicted by Ralph Alpher, George Gamow and Robert Herman in 1948 in their work of on Big Bang Nucleosynthesis.

Although the Big Bang Theory clearly explains the expansion of the universe, profusion of light elements and the cosmic microwave background radiation, the theory has three main problems. Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe determined that the geometry of the universe is nearly flat, but the Big Bang cosmology shows that the curvature will continue to grow with time. The cosmic microwave background temperature states that the distant regions of the space must have been in contact at one given point. However by the assumption of Big Bang expansion, the regions could never have been in contact because the distant of the regions of space are far apart from each other. Lastly, the Big Bang cosmology predicts that a very large number of heavy magnetic poles must have been produced during the expansion but they have never been observed up to date (Guth and Steinhardt).

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On the other hand, Christians and Muslims believe that the universe was empty until God created everything within the solar system.

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