The Big Bang Theory

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The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the birth of the universe. It states that at some moment all of space was contained in a single point from which the Universe has been expanding ever since. Modern measurements place this moment at approximately 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After the initial expansion, the Universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies. The Big Bang theory does not provide any explanation for the initial conditions of the Universe; rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the Universe going forward from that point on.

Hubble observed that the distances to faraway galaxies were strongly correlated with their redshifts. This was interpreted to mean that all distant galaxies and clusters are receding away from our vantage point with an apparent velocity proportional to their distance: that is, the farther they are, the faster they move away from us, regardless of direction. According to the Copernican principle (that the Earth is not the center of the Universe), the only remaining interpretation is that all observable regions of the Universe are receding from all others. Since we know that the distance between galaxies increases today, it must mean that in the past galaxies were closer together. The continuous expansion of the Universe implies that the Universe was denser and hotter in the past.

The Big Bang theory offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of observed phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure, and Hubble's Law. The framework for the Big Bang model relies on Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity and on simplifying assumptions such as homogeneity and isotropy of space. The governing equations were formulated by Alexander Friedmann, and similar solutions were worked on by Willem de Sitter. Since then, astrophysicists have incorporated observational and theoretical additions into the Big Bang model, and its parameterization as the Lambda-CDM model serves as the framework for current investigations of theoretical cosmology. The Lambda-CDM model is the standard model of Big Bang cosmology, the simplest model that provides a reasonably good account of various observations about the Universe.

The earliest and most direct observational evidence of the validity of the theory are the expansion of the Universe according to Hubble's law, discovery and measurement of the cosmic microwave background and the relative abundances of light elements produced by Big Bang nucleo synthesis. More recent evidence includes observations of galaxy formation and evolution, and the distribution of large-scale cosmic structures. These are sometimes called the "four pillars" of the Big Bang theory.

Precise modern models of the Big Bang appeal to various exotic physical phenomena that have not been observed in terrestrial laboratory experiments or incorporated into the Standard Model of particle physics. Of these features, dark matter is currently subjected to the most active laboratory investigations.

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