From aliens to distant galaxies, the universe includes everything in existence. For centuries scientists have tried to learn more. The history of the cosmos is more than something of the past. The information collected has a place in the present and future. So where did scientists start looking? At the many clues left behind. Meteorites and stars provide a wealth of information. As these materials are analyzed, they reveal parts of their past. Scientists piece together this info to learn more about the history of the universe. Solving mysteries like the age of the cosmos becomes possible. Astronomers can even reconstruct historical events. Collecting data from these “clues” is not an easy process. Astronomers rely on special techniques.
Different ideologies are common in society. Most often, multiple opinions regarding a topic exist. External factors usually play an influential role. Examples include faith, culture, and educational background. The same principle also applies to the existence of the universe. Scientists and even the Bible have proposed various theories. However, no explanation is any more” right” than the next. Each theory takes a scientific or religious approach.
The Age of the Universe
Throughout history, much of the universe was a mystery. Scientists had many questions but few answers. One topic astronomers were interested in was the age of the cosmos. At first, scientists believed the universe to be around 13.6 billion years old. Recent studies state otherwise, suggesting the date is much older. Research indicates everything came into existence 13.8 billion years ago. Scientists use two different methods to help narrow down age. The first technique measures the rate of expansion. The second calculates the age of celestial objects found within the universe. This information is then applied using special formulas and models. Since astronomers cannot time travel, they came up with this alternative solution. These models and formulas allow scientists to test theories. In other words, take a glimpse into the past.
The oldest stars allow scientists to enforce age limits. In essence, no celestial objects can be older than the universe itself. Scientists gather information from several sources. These include dust detection, globular clusters, and Population III stars. Without the stars, many questions would be left unanswered.
- Dust Detection – Provides evidence about the early universe. This information reveals the occurrence of cosmic events. Events include the first supernovae and Big Bang.
- Globular Clusters – About 150 in existence. Primarily located in the Milky Way Galaxy. Share many similarities with early stars. Astronomers use these densely populated star clusters to retrace the history of space. Each bunch tells a different story.
- Population lll stars – The first generation of stars. Contained only hydrogen and helium. Unstable and short-lived due to their chemical make up. Over time new elements were created. Fusion eventually took place. Here the necessary building blocks for newer star generations were formed.
Rate of Expansion. Invisible to the naked eye, the universe is continuously expanding. Scientists measure the rate of expansion at 44.7 miles per second. An important unit of measurement, the Hubble constant is needed. Density and universal composition both influence this value. Scientists first calculate the ratio of both factors. The higher the density levels, the older the universe. Experts work backward from this number.
The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang indicates the beginning of the universe. Scientists claim everything started out as a singularity. From here it grew for 13.8 billion years. In short, something small turned into something enormous. Initially, the universe was a small, dense piece of mass. Upon exploding, it grew from a subatomic level to infinite space. The entire event took less than a second. Research suggests the rate of expansion surpassed the speed of light. Astronomers believe the cosmos is still expanding.
For the next several billion years, the universe cooled and expanded. At the same time, energy split into matter and antimatter. The opposing natures of both particles eventually destroyed one another. Some of these particles survived. Introduced next were the more stable protons, and neutrons. Over time the universe became cold enough for chemical bonding. Here neutrons and protons began bonding with each other. As the cosmos cooled further, atoms began to form. Nuclei captured electrons, which resulted in the creation of helium and hydrogen gas. Many regard the Big Bang as the leading scientific theory. Alternative theories exist, including oscillating universes and eternal inflation.
The Earth and the Solar System
To learn more about the solar system scientists examine the oldest objects in the universe. Meteorites provide clues about the history of the solar system. These rock formations are critical for another reason. Many are “chemical fossils,” containing signs of ancient life forms. Astronomers study meteorites by measuring the rate of decay of radioactive elements. This technique is known as radioactive dating. Scientists determine age by counting the number of daughter products present. Astronomers estimate the solar system to be around 5 billion years old.
Calculating earth’s age requires different materials. Experts examine rocks covering the earth’s surface. Scientists perform the same radioactive dating technique. The oldest minerals on earth were initially from Acasta Gneisses, Canada. Stones in the area date back 4.03 billion years. Scattered throughout the continent are younger rocks 3.5 billion years old. Australia is home to the oldest minerals so far. The crystals of zirconium are believed to date back 4.3 billion years. Regarding age, earth follows the solar system closely behind at 4.6 billion years.
Genesis and the Universe
Since the beginning of time conflicts between science and religion have existed. Both have separate views regarding the existence of the universe. The reason for these differing opinions? The ability to choose between scientific and religious faith. Each is vastly different from one another. For instance, astronomers take scientific faith into account. Scientific practices rely on experimentation. A hypothesis is developed based on the collected data. Scientists date the universe at 13.8 billion years old. Only science is measurable.
Religion is much different. No similar method exists to test the accuracy of the claims made. The only “proof” comes from the bible itself. The Bible states the universe is 6,000 years old, a number derived from historical records. These mainly include the genealogies of biblical figures mentioned throughout the Bible. Both sides also disagree with the creation of the universe. Astronomers claim the cosmos resulted from an explosion, known as the “Big Bang.” Biblical text states god created everything in six full days.
Science has shed light on many questions we have about the cosmos. One of the most important questions was “how old is the universe.” Many are unaware of the significance of this number. For instance, from this knowledge scientists can learn more about the future of the earth. How? By observing climate change and mass extinction. From this, experts have discovered that our global footprint might be more severe than one had thought.
While humans are getting closer to solving the mysteries of the universe, there is still much to learn.