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Cosmology, A Primer

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sometimes, we need to go to the beginning. . .

 

 

 

By Stephen Battersby

Cosmologists study the universe as a whole: its birth, growth, shape, size and eventual fate. The vast scale of the universe became clear in the 1920s when Edwin Hubble proved that “spiral nebulae” are actually other galaxies like ours, millions to billions of light years away.

Hubble found that most galaxies are red shifted: the spectrum of their light is moved to longer, redder wavelengths. This can be explained as a doppler shift if the galaxies are moving away from us. Fainter, more distant galaxies have higher red shift, implying that they are receding faster, in a relationship set by the hubble constant.

The discovery that the whole universe is expanding led to the big bang theory. This states that if everything is flying apart now, it was once presumably packed much closer together, in a hot dense state. A rival idea, the steady-state theory, holds that new matter is constantly being created to fill the gaps generated by expansion. But the big bang largely triumphed in 1965 when Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered cosmic microwave background radiation. This is relic heat radiation emitted by hot matter in the very early universe, 380,000 years after the first instant of the big bang.

(To read more: Introduction: Cosmology – New Scientist)

For more on Cosmology:  The Cosmology Page

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