Lecture 11: The Big Bang

 The Incredible Expanding Universe

The Big Bang
 The Big Bang refers to the expansion of the universe (all of space, time, and matter) from a very small hot, dense beginning about 14 billion years ago.

Expanding Universe
How do astronomers know that the universe is expanding?   All astronomers can do is look at the light from stars and galaxies.   For astronomers, a telescope is a time machine!

Astronomers looking far into space look at ancient light

 Comet Hale-Bopp and the 10 m  Keck Telescope  They can actually watch the cosmic evolution of the universe as it happens!

Reflecting Telescope

Keck Observatory

Palomar Observatory

The 200-inch Hale Telescope

Palomar Telescope
 The Palomar Observatory is located in north San Diego County, California. It is a world-class center of astronomical research that is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology. The observatory is home to five telescopes that are nightly used for a wide variety of astronomical research programs. The research is conducted by Caltech's faculty, postdoctoral fellows and students, and by researchers at Caltech's collaborating institutions.

The Andromeda Galaxy (2.5 million light years away)
 This is the farthest back in time you can see with the naked eye.  (1 light year = 9,460,000,000,000 km)

In 1929, Edwin Hubble published his discovery that the universe is expanding!
 All of the galaxies in the universe are moving away from Earth. Galaxies that are twice as far away are moving away twice as fast! The straight line is the Hubble law: v = H0 r For each 3.26 million light years of distance, a galaxy moves away about 65 km/s faster (Hubble parameter H0).

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What do astronomers see when they look deep into space at the most ancient objects?

This is the Hubble telescope's Deep Field photo of a random area of "empty sky." It shows some of the farthest galaxies known. We are looking so far back in time that some of these galaxies formed only a billion years after the Big Bang!

Cepheid Variable Stars

Cepheid variable stars vary in brightness over time.

Henrietta Swan Leavitt
(1868 - 1921)

Observed more than 2400 Cepheid variable stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud She discovered that more luminous Cepheids took more time to go through one brightdim-bright period. SMC photo NOAO/AURA/NSF

The Distance to the Andromeda Galaxy
 In 1923, Edwin Hubble discovered a Cepheid variable star in the Andromeda "nebula." The period-luminosity relation shows that the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away. A primary mission of the Hubble Space Telescope is to discover very distant Cepheid variable stars.

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islands of stars making up the universe


Edwin Hubble
 First to realize that galaxies lie outside the Milky Way …  … by measuring their distances using Cepheid variables as ‘standard candles’
Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953) was trained as a lawyer, before boredom made him turn to astronomy instead

Cepheid variables oscillate in brightness with a regular period that depends on their luminosity. By measuring this period, they can be used as standard candles.

Cosmic Speedometer
 When a galaxy is receding, light waves traveling to us are red-shifted  Hubble measured the spectrum of these galaxies and found the spectral lines to be red-shifted

 The faster the recession, the greater the red-shift

Hubble’s Law
 Hubble then noticed a correlation between the distance of the galaxies and the speed at which they are moving away from us

Hubble constant graph

Expansion of the Universe

… ‘winding’ backwards, the universe must have had a beginning

Georges Lemaître
 Proposed that the universe began with the explosion of a ‘primeval atom’  His model was improved by George Gamow and others, who proposed that elements were forged during this hot and dense stage  Known as the Big Bang theory today; coined by Fred Hoyle who proposed a rival theory ...

Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) was a Belgian Catholic priest who was fond of saying there is no conflict between science and religion

Steady State Model
 Universe is expanding, but maintains a constant average density  Matter is continually being created in the voids to form new stars, galaxies  Universe has no beginning and no end  But disproved with the discovery of …

Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)
 Background radiation from the sky that is isotropic
(same strength in all directions)

 Corresponds to a temperature of just 2.7 Kelvins  Identified as the radiation left over from the Big Bang explosion

Arno Penzias (right) and Robert Wilson of Bell Laboratories, next to the horn antenna with which they discovered the CMB in 1965

Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)

The COBE was the world’s most sensitive thermometer, built to probe the heat radiation left over from the Big Bang. In 1992, it detected fluctuations of just a few millionths of a degree in the CMB.

CMB Maps by COBE of the Entire Sky

This dipole signal is due to the motion of the Earth through space. The CMB is blue-shifted in the direction of Earth’s motion, and red-shifted in the opposite direction

After the dipole signal has been subtracted out, we are left with a hot central band running across the sky, which is due to our own Milky Way

The final CMB map is obtained after both the dipole and galaxy signals have been removed. The result is a map of regions that are a few millionths of a degree hotter (pink) or colder (blue) than average

If we can look back in time to almost 14 billion years, before the first galaxies were being assembled, then what is there to see?
 We see the Cosmic Background Radiation, the afterglow of the Big Bang. This light was released when the universe became transparent, when it was only about 300,000 years old.  The universe has now cooled to a temperature of 2.76 degrees Celsius above absolute zero!  The temperature variations shown are only a few 100 microdegrees Celsius.  They mark the density fluctuations that will someday become galaxies  and clusters of galaxies.  

These tiny fluctuations have evolved into clusters of galaxies today

Tests of the Big Bang Theory
 Expansion of the universe  Cosmic microwave background  Relative abundances of hydrogen, deuterium, helium and lithium

Obtaining the Age of the Universe
 Extrapolate the current expansion rate (Hubble constant) back to the Big Bang
– 10 to 20 billion years old

 Look for the oldest stars
(in globular clusters) – 11 to 18 billion years old

 Best current estimate is 13.4 ± 1.6 billion years

M10 Globular Cluster

Problems with the Big Bang Theory
 Flatness problem
– why is the geometry of universe so close to being flat?

 Horizon problem
– why is the universe so isotropic?

 Smoothness problem
– why is the universe so homogeneous?

Why does the universe appear so uniform even on opposite sides of the sky, which could never have been in causal contact with each other?

Alan Guth: Inflation
 Lasted between 10-35 and 10-32 seconds after the Big Bang  Universe expanded by a factor of 1050, from smaller than an atom to bigger than a galaxy  It was driven by vast amounts of energy released when a ‘symmetry breaking’ phase transition occurred
Alan Guth of MIT was only 32 when he developed the theory of inflation in 1979

Inflation to the Rescue
 Flatness problem

In each successive frame, the sphere is inflated by a factor of three. By the fourth frame, it looks like a flat plane. Thus, inflation drives the geometry of the universe toward flatness

 Horizon and smoothness problems

Without inflation, the universe today would consist of a patchwork of different regions. Instead, it is very uniform

Inflation had the effect of expanding a small region to a very large one. Since we are inside such a region, our neighbourhood appears uniform

Summary: Timeline of the Universe

Timeline of the Universe 2

Possible Fates of the Universe

Will the Universe Recollapse?
 Gravitational pull of the galaxies on each other is slowing down the rate of expansion  Required density for the universe to recollapse is 4.5 x 10-30 g/cm3  Observed density of luminous material (stars, galaxies) is about 3 x 10-31 g/cm3

Dark Matter
 But there may be about 10 times this amount in the form of ‘dark matter’

Measurements of the velocities of stars in a galaxy show that there must be more matter in the galaxy than is apparent. This ‘dark matter’ is known to form an invisible halo around the galaxy

 So the universe is very close to the threshold for recollapse! (This is related to the flatness problem)

Possible forms of dark matter

If the universe recollapses ...

If the universe expands forever ...

“Some say the world will end in fire, others say in ice.” – Robert Frost

Fire and Ice - Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.

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