Universe

« Back to Glossary Index

**1. Universe Overview:**

– Etymology traces back to Old French and Latin roots, meaning combined into one and totality.
– Synonyms include terms from Ancient Greek and Latin, as well as modern languages like English.
– Prevailing model is the Big Bang theory, explaining the early hot and dense universe that expanded and cooled.
– Formation began with the Big Bang, leading to the emergence of galaxies, stars, and the observable universe.
– Contents encompass all forms of energy, matter, physical laws, and even abstract concepts like mathematics.

**2. Universe Size and Age:**

– Observable universe spans about 93 billion light-years in diameter.
– Milky Way measures roughly 100,000–180,000 light-years across.
– Best estimate for the universe’s age is 13.79 billion years.
– Uncertainty exists on whether the universe’s total size is finite or infinite.
– Ongoing expansion may prevent interactions between distant regions.

**3. Early Universe Evolution:**

– Cosmic inflation likely occurred within the first 10^-32 seconds after the Big Bang.
– Four fundamental forces separated within the first fraction of a second.
– Big Bang nucleosynthesis converted protons and neutrons into helium.
– Dark matter concentrations led to the formation of stars and galaxies.
– Photon epoch followed nucleosynthesis, leading to stable atom formation.

**4. Dark Energy and Dark Matter:**

– Dark energy, possibly a scalar field, dominates the universe’s acceleration.
– Dark energy density surpassed matter density after about 9.8 billion years.
– Dark matter, invisible and inferred from gravitational effects, constitutes a significant portion of the universe.
– Dark matter does not emit or absorb light and is one of the greatest mysteries in astrophysics.
– Population III stars played a role in reionization and seeding the universe with heavier elements.

**5. Fundamental Particles and Forces:**

– The universe comprises dark energy, dark matter, ordinary matter, electromagnetic radiation, and antimatter.
– Ordinary matter accounts for a small percentage of the universe’s contents.
– Quarks and leptons are fundamental particles described as points in space.
– Hadrons are composite particles made of quarks, while leptons are elementary particles with half-integer spin.
– Photons are the carriers of the electromagnetic force and played a crucial role during nucleosynthesis.

Universe (Wikipedia)

The universe is all of space and time and their contents. It comprises all of existence, any fundamental interaction, physical process and physical constant, and therefore all forms of energy and matter, and the structures they form, from sub-atomic particles to entire galaxies. Space and time, according to the prevailing cosmological theory of the Big Bang, emerged together 13.787±0.020 billion years ago, and the universe has been expanding ever since. Today the universe has expanded into an age and size that is physically only in parts observable as the observable universe, which is approximately 93 billion light-years in diameter at the present day, while the spatial size, if any, of the entire universe is unknown.

Universe
The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field image shows some of the most remote galaxies visible to present technology (diagonal is ~1/10 apparent Moon diameter)
Age (within ΛCDM model)13.787 ± 0.020 billion years
DiameterUnknown. Observable universe: 8.8×1026 m (28.5 Gpc or 93 Gly)
Mass (ordinary matter)At least 1053 kg
Average density (with energy)9.9×10−27 kg/m3
Average temperature2.72548 K (−270.4 °C, −454.8 °F)
Main contentsOrdinary (baryonic) matter (4.9%)
Dark matter (26.8%)
Dark energy (68.3%)
ShapeFlat with 4‰ error margin

Some of the earliest cosmological models of the universe were developed by ancient Greek and Indian philosophers and were geocentric, placing Earth at the center. Over the centuries, more precise astronomical observations led Nicolaus Copernicus to develop the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of the Solar System. In developing the law of universal gravitation, Isaac Newton built upon Copernicus's work as well as Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion and observations by Tycho Brahe.

Further observational improvements led to the realization that the Sun is one of a few hundred billion stars in the Milky Way, which is one of a few hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe. Many of the stars in a galaxy have planets. At the largest scale, galaxies are distributed uniformly and the same in all directions, meaning that the universe has neither an edge nor a center. At smaller scales, galaxies are distributed in clusters and superclusters which form immense filaments and voids in space, creating a vast foam-like structure. Discoveries in the early 20th century have suggested that the universe had a beginning and has been expanding since then.

According to the Big Bang theory, the energy and matter initially present have become less dense as the universe expanded. After an initial accelerated expansion called the inflationary epoch at around 10−32 seconds, and the separation of the four known fundamental forces, the universe gradually cooled and continued to expand, allowing the first subatomic particles and simple atoms to form. Giant clouds of hydrogen and helium were gradually drawn to the places where matter was most dense, forming the first galaxies, stars, and everything else seen today.

From studying the effects of gravity on both matter and light, it has been discovered that the universe contains much more matter than is accounted for by visible objects; stars, galaxies, nebulas and interstellar gas. This unseen matter is known as dark matter, (dark means that there is a wide range of strong indirect evidence that it exists, but we have not yet detected it directly) having come into existence alongside the rest of the physical universe before gradually gathering into a foam-like structure of filaments and voids and allowing other forms of matter to form together into visible structures. The ΛCDM model is the most widely accepted model of the universe. It suggests that about 69.2%±1.2% of the mass and energy in the universe is dark energy which is responsible for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe, and about 25.8%±1.1% is dark matter. Ordinary ('baryonic') matter is therefore only 4.84%±0.1% of the physical universe. Stars, planets, and visible gas clouds only form about 6% of the ordinary matter.

There are many competing hypotheses about the ultimate fate of the universe and about what, if anything, preceded the Big Bang, while other physicists and philosophers refuse to speculate, doubting that information about prior states will ever be accessible. Some physicists have suggested various multiverse hypotheses, in which the universe might be one among many.


« Back to Glossary Index