Continue your curiosity-journey through time & space aboard the Venus-Valkyrie…more than three hundred thousand years from The Big Bang…
[This post continues from Chapter I.I. Just joined the crew? If you’d like to warp speed your way to Chapter I you can begin your curiosity journey at the beginning. Returning for another cosmic adventure? Read on…]
You watch the view from the ship as time and space seem to swirl around you, oblivious to your presence as you traverse time from The Big-Bang to continue your cosmic journey into understanding how the universe came to be what it is today.
[The ship moves forward in time and space, leaping from warp speed to a somewhat larger early Universe forming.]
Around three hundred and eighty thousand years after the big bang, the universe had expanded to around the size of the Milky Way. Cooling from a billion degrees to just a few thousand. With this period of cooling, those electrons we left in chapter I.I that were moving too fast to bond, had begun to slow.
With those slowing electrons bonding, the universe was now ready to begin making it’s first true elements.
In 1963 two scientists who created an antenna to pick up radio waves coming from space made one of the most important cosmos related discoveries of all time. The mystery of the sound that they discovered is rooted not in sound, but in the birth of light. While humans take daylight & light for granted, in the early universe we would see nothing at all. Light was trapped, the universe was completely foggy.
Imagine a beam of light, the beam bounces back and forth between the light particles. In the early universe a dense fog of electrons trapped the light from escaping. As the universe was cooling, the electrons as mentioned had begun to slow, protons began to grab the calmer electrons to form complete atoms, first Hydrogen, then Helium.
‘A science lesson for you my curiosity crew, an electron is a stable subatomic particle with a charge of negative electricity, found in all atoms and acting as the primary carrier of electricity in solids. A proton is a stable subatomic particle occurring in all atomic nuclei, with a positive electric charge equal in magnitude to that of an electron. Together these bond to create atoms. An atom is the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter that constitutes a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms. Atoms are extremely small; typical sizes are around 100 picometers. If you want to know how small that is, it’s about one trillionth of a metre. Something that small forms the building blocks of everything around you!’ With that Lexi draws your attention back to the forming universe just beyond the star-ship.
With these formations, the universe became a lot less crowded with electrons, lifting the fog, thus releasing the light. Hurtling outwards across the universe, the light cast a blinding beam of light, taking the originally opaque universe & transforming it into a beautifully transparent universe.
[As you look out the window of the ship, you see the ray of light casting out across the universe as the fog begins to clear, with a beautifully transparent universe emerging from horizon.]
Over time this beam of light became dimmer and cooler and became microwave radiation. It was this thirteen billion year old microwave that the two scientists in the early sixties discovered through their antenna. Pretty fascinating & spectacular! Imagine as late as 1963 and humans in our lifetime heard the sounds of The Big Bang through their radio telescope!
What you are seeing is essentially electromagnetic radiation that is left over from the earliest cosmological epoch which permeates the entire Universe. It is believed to have formed about 380,000 years after the Big Bang and contains subtle indications of how the first stars and galaxies formed within the universe. This radiation is invisible using optical telescopes, however radio telescopes are able to detect the faint signal (or glow) that is strongest in the microwave region of the radio spectrum. ‘For my curiosity crew an epoch is the beginning of a period in the history of someone or something.’
The sounds of the universe can be found among the static noise on your television set [way before the age of digital TV my friends; you would be channel hopping when you would undoubtedly step to a further channel than your TV would allow & you’d be presented with a fuzzy black and white screen.] A tiny fraction of the sound found in this static noise, was radiation of the universe from close to thirteen billion years ago.
‘Suki, the Venus-Valkyrie’s AI, has kindly sourced some static noise for you to listen to, for those only familiar with tv of the digital age.’
If that wasn’t mind-bending enough imagine that in every glass of water you drink, you’re consuming atoms in the form of Hydrogen that have existed since the time of the Big Bang. Lexi commands Suki to return the screen back to the view of the universe ahead of the ship.
Throughout the million years following the big bang, the universe began to cool & get dark again. During this time the universe had only made Hydrogen and Helium atoms, yet the world we live in is made up for more than a hundred different kinds of elements. Without these additional elements, the universe would remain as gas and complex forms of matter such as planets, stars & even lifeforms could not exist.
To provide the conditions for more complex matter to exist, the universe needed to fuse Hydrogen and Helium atoms, in order to do that, the creation of the stars was required.
[Whirring sounds stir throughout the ship as she once more prepares for the leap to hyper space taking Captain Lexi & the Cosmic Crew forward in time to when the early universe was just two hundred million years old. The universe has continued to evolve and is around sixty billion light years across as the Venus-Valkyrie emerges from hyper space.]
At this stage in time, the temperature of the universe has dropped so low that it’s now colder than liquid nitrogen, minus three hundred and sixty seven degrees. It was now totally dark again, it would remain that way, void of any stars or galaxies if it had not been for one thing; the early universe when it emerged from the big bang, was incredibly uneven, this unbalanced universe contained many cracks, which later would allow the formation of the galaxies. Without the cracks, the universe would have remained very dull, devoid of complex matter.
How the cracks became galaxies & stars was discovered by scientists who studied the Big Bang & explored the evolution of the early universe. The radiation across the universe appeared to be uniform in nature, what cosmologists spent the next couple of decades exploring was the possibility of tiny variations in the radiation. The located the variations in the background microwave radiation. ‘Suki begin content show for WMAP probe.’ [Suki dims the lights in the ships and begins a presentation of how scientists discovered the way in which stars had been formed.]
Launched in 2001, the WMAP probe, a one hundred and fifty million dollar probe fitted with some of the most sensitive instrumentation sent into space, was designed to tune into the invisible microwave radiation. The human eye can only detect visible starlight, yet WMAP was able to once it was in orbit around the sun, pick up the faint radiation that has been around since the dawn of time.
Humankind was suddenly able to witness this radiation that had been heading towards us since half a million years after the big bang. Initially the early universe appeared to be very dull and look the same, uniform all over. Yet when WMAP turned up the contrast, the results were spectacular.
The early universe was far from uniform & dull, in fact it, the early universe was full of fluctuations. The cracks would allow for the formation of stars and galaxies. The readings showed the variations in the early universe & showed the denser parts of the readings, where they could see the formation of galaxies & super clusters forming. The low density regions develop & become the gaps between the galaxies & stars. The images and readings really created scientists understanding of what the universe was like in it’s early years & at thirteen and a half billion years old.
Essentially the galaxies and stars began life as a tiny crack in the fabric of the universe. The material within the cracks was filled with swirling clouds of Hydrogen atoms. The gas clouds got denser & hotter, being pulled together by gravity, as part of a cosmic web. The gaseous clouds would condense & collapse to form stars, the stars settle into a rotating disc which would later become a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way.
Over millions of years the Hydrogen atoms clumped together, heating up, fusing the atoms, releasing energy as the gas clouds burned brightly & eventually a star was formed. In the event of the first stars being formed, there would have been enormous flashes of light as stars lit up the sky & burned themselves out.
In the beginning the stars in the universe were made up of Hydrogen & Helium, millions of stars lighting up across the universe, but they were not like our own stars, they were very unstable. It was however this very unstable nature that would lead the universe to it’s next interesting phase of life.
Within each star that was forming, something incredible was happening, they were creating new elements. Sir Fred Hoyle, one of the great astronomers of the twentieth century changed the belief of the formation of elements through the formation of stars. Hoyle didn’t believe that stars formed in one explosion, he figured that stars acted like nuclear reactors acting like a hydrogen bomb in slow motion, yet billions of times more powerful and their nuclear waste was actually creating new elements. By analyzing light from stars, emitting a frequency when heated up, scientists could monitor the frequencies to understand more about the formation of the stars.
In 1990, NASA launched the Hubble telescope to understand more about the formation of the early universe. [Discover more about the Hubble Telescope & it’s mission later in this exploration series.]
Hubble sent back the most incredible photographs of space that anyone had ever seen, beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Capturing the final moments of a stars life, new stars being formed, exploding into life millions of years ago & cosmic dust millions of miles long making way for stars to be formed. The telescope allowed humankind to witness the birth of starlight.
Hubble’s greatest discovery came when pointed at an empty patch of space, what emerged was the deep field image, a tapestry of distant galaxies. Hubble was looking back in time at some of the first galaxies & stars created with the birth of the universe, allowing humans to understand the faint images of galaxies formed just a billion years after the big bang.
When scientists studied the stars, they noted that they had created elements far heavier than Hydrogen and Helium. [Early stars being formed are visible from the Venus-Valkyrie as we sit here among the evolution of the early universe.]
Fusion reactions contained within these stars released huge amounts of energy & heat. This forced atoms to fuse, which caused new heavier elements. Three Helium nuclei formed to create Carbon, two Carbon nuclei formed to create Magnesium, which created Neon, this creation process continued on for hundreds of thousands of years. Until Silicon fused to create Iron.
Iron is a very special atom, it’s protons & neutrons inside the nucleus are bound very tightly, even the extreme heat within the stars couldn’t get the atoms to bond, it resolutely remains iron.
The production line of element making shut down at this stage, that was in no means the end of the formation & evolution of the universe, but there were now all the elements needed to create water & many of the complex building blocks of life.
Lexi turns to the crew, ‘At this point of our discovery journey we shall take a rest before we leap into the following chapter of the evolution of the early universe. Suki, the on-board AI has located a wonderful sight for you to all witness as we end this chapter of our cosmic adventure, the birth of the universe up to the point of the creation of the galaxies…Suki play video.’
[As the video finished, the droids begin to enter co-ordinates and once again the Venus-Valkyrie prepares to make the leap to hyperspace. Vibrations from the ships engine core can be felt as the ship begins to turn and head for the following destination in it’s curiosity journey of the life of the universe.]
‘While we take in the hyperspace sights, I think some music would be good. Suki play some Bowie for us’
If you enjoyed part I of this cosmic curiosity journey into the life of the universe, you can join Lexi for Chapter I.III back here at TCMG in just a little while.
Live long and prosper, my tribe of humans.
Venus-Valkyrie imagined by Lexi, brought to life by Simon [SJM Illustrations] All content belongs to it’s respective owners. The Cosmic Mergypsie © 2018-2020 Alexi Lily.