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The Big Bang Theory and the Origin of Earth
General Introduction Where we are, how big are we?

We are on Earth which is around 150 million km away from the Sun. (Note: 1 million = 1000,000 = 10 lakhs) Light travels at nearly 300, 000 km in 1 second. So the light from the Sun takes a little more than 8 minutes to reach us. The furthest object in our solar system is Pluto (no more a planet) which is around 6000 million km away from the Sun and the sunlight takes nearly 5 and ½ hours to reach Pluto. The time taken by light to come to Earth from other nearby stars is of the order of a few years. So the light from the stars that we see on the sky are really many years old. The distances among the stars are so great that it is useful consider the unit of ‘light year’ which is the distance covered by light in one year. Our Sun (and the solar system) is a member of a bigger system, the Milky Way Galaxy. There are approximately 100,000 million other stars in this galaxy. In fact, our Sun is only a very ordinary star; there are many massive stars, much bigger than the Sun in Milky Way. The Sun lies at a distance of about 30,000 light years from the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, around one third of the dimension of the galaxy. Our galaxy is not even a special one! It is estimated that there are 3000 million other galaxies in the universe that could be searched so far. The dimension of our universe is around 10,000 million light years. Time scales and Masses are also equally enormous. Our earth takes a year to complete one trip round the sun. The Jupiter takes 12 years. The Sun and other stars are also orbiting around the centre of the galaxy. They take around 200 million years to complete one trip round the galactic centre. Mass can be so enormous that the masses of stars and even bigger objects are not measured in kg or other known units. The unit that is used is one solar mass. If a star is two times heavier than the Sun, for example, it is called 2 solar mass etc.

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Everyone is born and everyone dies:

Everything has a life cycle of its own; the living beings, the rocks, the elements, the planets, the stars and the galaxies. The life cycle of a star is amazingly interesting and this is of great concern to the scientists as the study of the universe and its structure is connected to this. The death of a star is inevitable. The thermonuclear reaction (nuclear fusion) in a star ends one day and the star approaches ‘death’. The nuclear fuel, mainly hydrogen and helium, in a star ends up at a time and then the inside core of it shrinks under gravitational pull and the outside core expands so much that it appears to be a giant and red coloured star, called ‘red giant’ star. Our sun will also become a red giant one day, its brightness will increase so much and its outer core radius will become so large that it will swallow the planets Mercury and Venus and possibly the Earth. This will of course take many thousand million years. A smaller star (mass less than 1.4 times the solar mass, called ‘Chandrasekhar limit’)), in its life cycle, becomes something called ‘White Dwarf’ when it exhausts all its nuclear fuel. It can not hold the force of gravitation any more by generating heat and radiation pressure. The star then contracts under its own gravitation until the matter in the inner core gets highly compressed. Later on these white dwarfs become neutron rich (no atoms can exist at extremely high pressure and temperature). They are then called ‘Neutron Star’. More massive stars (mass greater than the Chandrasekhar limit) become something called ‘Black Holes’; the massive stars shrink so much at the end of life, the density becomes so unimaginably high under its own gravitational pull that even the light can not get out of it. Black holes are nearly impossible to detect as no electromagnetic radiation can come out them.
Supernova: Sometimes a massive star, when it reaches the end of its nuclear

fuel, can become a ‘supernova’. A supernova arises when the core of the star collapses under its own gravitational attraction, releasing huge amount of energy (shock waves) which causes the outer core to explode. The inside core may become white dwarf or neutron star. But the tremendously exploding

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envelope carries huge amount of energies and very fast moving particles like electrons, protons etc. This is a possible source of Cosmic Rays.
Introduction: Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang theory is the scientific theory of the creation of the Universe. The Big Bang theory is an effort to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. It also tries to explain what happened during and immediately after the beginning. The study of the creation of Universe and the properties of early universe (immediately after the Big Bang) is called Cosmology. The Universe today, as we see, is different from what it was in the past and it will be different in the future. It is not static. Our universe, in fact, has a beginning as the discoveries in Astronomy and Astrophysics and mathematical calculations have established that beyond doubt. Prior to the moment of creation, there was nothing; during and after that moment there was something - our universe. The Big Bang Theory: Infinitely hot matter of infinite density was thought to be concentrated in an infinitesimally small volume (a point) at the moment of the creation of the universe. Around 15-20 billion years ago a tremendous explosion started the expansion of the universe. This explosion is known as Big Bang. [Note: 1 billion year = 1000 million year, 1 million year = 1000,000 year = 10 lakh years. Thus, 1 billion years = 1000,000,000 years = 100 crores years.] The Big Bang theory tells us that our Universe originated from a ‘singularity’. Singularity is a concept (a mathematical concept) which defies our understanding of physical reality and imagination! What existed prior to the moment of Big Bang is completely unknown and is a matter of pure speculation. The space, time, matter, or energy everything was created with Big Bang. Where did our Universe come from? We don't know. Why did it appear? We don't know. Where it is? We don’t know.

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All we know is that we exist inside the universe. The origin of the Big Bang theory can be credited to Edwin Hubble (1889-1953). Hubble made the observation that the universe is continuously expanding. Matter was created out of Big Bang and energy propagated at the speed of light (300,000,000 meter per second). The temperature of the universe just after a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang explosion was of the order of 1000 trillion degree Centigrade (1 trillion = 1000 billion) as estimated. As the universe quickly expanded, it had also undergone a rapid cooling enabling the creation of matter from energy. Universe back then was too hot for anything other than the most fundamental particles -- such as quarks and photons. About one ten-thousandth of a second after the Big Bang, protons and neutrons formed, and within a few minutes these particles stuck together to form atomic nuclei, mostly hydrogen and helium. Hundreds of thousands of years later, electrons stuck to the nuclei to make complete atoms.
The evidences supporting the Big Bang theory:

Experimental observations reveal that the galaxies appear to be moving away from us at speeds proportional to their distance (This is called "Hubble's Law," named after Edwin Hubble.). This observation supports the expansion of the universe and suggests that the universe was once compacted. Since the Big Bang, the universe has been continuously expanding and, thus, there has been more and more distance between clusters of galaxies. This phenomenon of galaxies moving farther away from each other is known as the red shift. If the universe was initially extremely hot as the Big Bang suggests, we should be able to find some remnant of this heat. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB), which seems to be coming from the farthest reaches of the universe and that is supposed to be left over from the Big Bang. Even more recently, NASAs COBE satellite was able to detect cosmic microwaves emanating from the outer reaches of the universe. These microwaves were remarkably uniform which illustrated the homogeneity of the early stages of the universe. Finally, the abundance of the "light elements" Hydrogen and Helium found in the observable universe are thought to support the Big Bang model of origins.


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The force of attraction among the heavenly bodies like starts, planets, galaxies etc. is called GRAVITATION. Gravitational force acts between any two objects or particles (no matter how small or big) in the universe. However, the force of attraction is more if one of the bodies or both are big enough. For example, earth attracts us with a big force and that is why we fall down towards the earth and not go up easily. The force is less as the distance between two objects is more. According to Newton’s law of gravitation, Force between two objects is proportional to the product of the masses of two bodies and inversely proportional to the square of the distance.
How the Solar system was formed?

The leading hypothesis to explain how the solar system formed is called the condensation theory, which is based on a related explanation called the nebular theory. What is a Nebula? A nebula is a large cloud of gas and dust that exists in the depths of interstellar space. These clouds typically form during the death of a giant star when it becomes supernova. This mighty explosion sends most of the star's mass outward into space as a massive wave of debris. The nebular cloud from which our solar system formed may have accumulated from one or more stars that went supernova billions of years ago. Astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories to discover similar nebular clouds where new stars and possibly planets appear to be in the process of being created. Astronomers estimate that the nebular cloud from which our solar system was formed, contained about two to three times the mass of the Sun and was about 100 astronomical units (AU) across. An astronomical unit is defined as the average distance between the Sun and Earth, or about 150 million km. This massive loosely-bound cloud of dust, ice particles, and gases (primarily hydrogen and helium) had some small rate of rotation due to the method in which it was formed. Over time, this nebular cloud began to collapse inward. The collapse may have itself been triggered by a supernova that sent shockwaves through the cloud causing it to compress. As the cloud compressed on itself, the gravitational attraction of the matter within increased and pulled the material in even further. The nebula continued to contract under the influence of gravity causing it to spin faster. The more the cloud contracted, the faster it rotated due to the conservation of angular momentum. The rate of contraction was greatest near the center of the cloud where a dense central core began to form. As the rate of rotation of the nebula

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continued to increase, centrifugal effects caused the spinning cloud to flatten into a disk with a bulge at its center. The middle of this spinning disk further condensed to eventually form the Sun at the center of the solar system. The material spinning around this new star also condensed into several large chunks of material called planetoids. As these planetoids collided, they coalesced into larger bodies to form the planets that exist today. Because the Sun and planets all formed from the same nebular cloud, they all rotate in the same direction that was induced on the disk of material as it coalesced. Not only do the planets all rotate counterclockwise around the Sun, but the Sun and nearly all the planets rotate counter-clockwise about their axes. The solar equator and the plane containing the orbits of the planets are also nearly identical, further supporting the formation theory described above. Only a few exceptions to this explanation can be found in the solar system. The planet Venus actually rotates clockwise around its axis in what is called a retrograde motion. Uranus is also in an unusual orientation since the world is tilted on its side with its north and south poles in about the same plane as the planet's orbit around the Sun. Tiny Pluto is also tilted on its side and is the only planet with an orbit considerably outside of the ecliptic plane. While the reasons for these eccentricities are unknown, it is believed that large collisions with other large bodies during the formation of the solar system may account for the unusual characteristics of these planets.
In Short:

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A massive cloud, called solar nebula, was disturbed by the shock wave coming from a nearby supernova. The cloud then collapsed under its own gravitational attraction and the sun was formed in the central region. The planets were formed from the outer regions of the accretion disk. The initial collapse of solar nebula is supposed to take less than 100,000 years. The age of formation of solar system is estimated to be little more than 4.5 billion years.

Two older theories of origin of solar system: The meteorite theory of Immanuel Kant : 6

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The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804) put up a theory which is believed to be the oldest meteorite theory. Kant believed that a huge cloud of meteorites existed at the beginning of our solar system. This cloud turned slowly around itself. Through this circling the cloud got a disc shape. Through their attraction under each other the meteorites started to form a mass-centre. Then it became so hot through contractions that it started to glow. That could have been the birth of the Sun. In some distance from the sun there some other, smaller mass-centres which started to rotate around the sun – they are the planets.
The Nebular theory of Laplace :

The French mathematician Pierre Simon Marquis de Laplace (1749 - 1872) developed the ideas of Kant further. Because of this his theory is also known as the Kant-Laplace Nebular theory. Laplace believed that in the beginning there was a huge cloud of hot gas which rotated slowly. It started to condense while it cooled off. Through this the gravitation of the particles got big enough and formed a discus-shaped ‘pre-sun’. Through further condensing, the centre of the pre-sun became hot again and the rotation speed became faster. So the more the gas cloud condenses, the hotter the centre became and the faster became the rotation speeds. Because of this the centrifugal force becamee stronger than the gravitational pull, so a ring would detach itself. Because of the different attractions of the particles in the ring it would tear apart and from the different pieces, the planets would form that are still circling the sun. What is a meteorite? A meteorite is a natural object originating somewhere in outer space. We often see an impact of such objects with the Earth’s atmosphere and earth’s surface. When it enters the atmosphere, impact pressure causes the body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball – we call it meteor or shooting star.
What is the age of Earth?

Throughout this century the race has been on to discover the oldest rocks in the world. The oldest volcanic rock found so far has been dated at 3.75 billion years old, but this is not the whole story. Meteorites created at the same time as the Earth hit us all the time, radioactive dating shows that they are about 4.55 billion years old.
Earth’s atmosphere and early life:

The Earth’s atmosphere was not like this as it is now. The compositions were different. During the first billion years, the Earth's surface was originally molten, as it cooled the volcanoes ejected huge amounts of Carbon Dioxide,

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steam, ammonia and methane. There was no Oxygen! The steam condensed to form water which then produced oceans. Evidence points to bacteria flourishing 3.8 billion years ago so this means that life came into existence about 700 million years after the Earth was created. Such early forms of life existed in the shallow oceans close to thermal sources, which were reservoirs of heat and minerals. This lecture note, meant for the non-specialists, has been prepared for the M.Sc. Geography students (Distance Education course, Vidyasagar University, West Bengal, India). This is compiled from the following books and websites: 1. The Structure of the Universe – Jayant Narlikar (Oxford University Press) 2. 3. 4. 5. earth_origin_lecture.html 6. 7. 8.


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