Scientifically Speaking - How Old is the Universe? - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Scientifically Speaking - How Old is the Universe?

Posted: Updated:
MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) If you look at the night sky without any light pollution, it is possible to see upwards of 8,000 stars on any given clear night. You can even see one of the Milky Way's four arms stretching across the horizon. 

Our own cozy galactic home is tiny compared to what lies beyond. Deep field images from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope have revealed stunning images of hundreds of galaxies suspended millions and billions of light years away. Recently, they have even spied the oldest galaxies in the known universe, coming in at the ripe age of 13.2 billion years old. 

STARTING AT THE BEGINNING

The most commonly accepted scientific theory for how the universe began is the Big Bang theory. While not proven fact, scientists have been able to use the physics of general relativity (which describes gravity in modern physics) to work back through time to a moment where the only thing in existence was an infinitely dense and hot point: a singularity.

As the hot, dense gas began to rapidly expand (we're talking really fast and really hot...temperatures were over 1 billion giga Kelvin), it rocketed outward and began to cool and become less dense according to the laws of thermodynamics. Particles formed, were destroyed, and re-formed. Eventually elements (think: periodic table) were synthesized. The cosmos as we know them developed over many millions and billions of years and continue to evolve to this day.

HOW LONG AGO WAS THE BEGINNING?

 

 


The tremendous energy associated with the early universe is believed to have left a thermal imprint known as Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) which originated around 380,000 years after the Big Bang itself. Scientists are able to detect this with very powerful radio telescopes and it represents the oldest light in the universe. CMBR gives us the ability to see a "snapshot" of the universe at the point it cooled enough to form hydrogen atoms. 

As the universe expanded and continues to expand even today, the CMBR cools. We know the mathematical expression to describe this cooling and can work backwards through the math to the earliest moments in the universe using the rate of cooling (which is similar to how we determined how long a potato had been out of the oven based on the cooling rate). 

With that information, we can estimate the age of the universe itself, which is roughly 13.8 billion years old. There is, of course, some uncertainty in the measurement. The actual age could be as much as 37 million years more or less than that. In any case, Hubble finding galaxies that are around 13.2 billion years old shows us that we are fairly close with our current age...scientifically speaking.

 

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Elderly couple killed after being struck by train

    Elderly couple killed after being struck by train

    Thursday, April 24 2014 12:48 PM EDT2014-04-24 16:48:43 GMT
    KEITHVILLE, La. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Caddo Parish sheriff's deputies say an elderly couple died in a truck-train accident.
    KEITHVILLE, La. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Caddo Parish sheriff's deputies say an elderly couple died in a truck-train accident.
  • Parents of infant found dead held on drug charges

    Parents of infant found dead held on drug charges

    Thursday, April 24 2014 12:24 PM EDT2014-04-24 16:24:15 GMT
    SYLVESTER, Ga. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Officials say the parents of an infant who was found dead at their Mississippi home drove with their 2-year-old daughter to Georgia, where they are being held on felony drug warrants.
    SYLVESTER, Ga. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Officials say the parents of an infant who was found dead at their Mississippi home drove with their 2-year-old daughter to Georgia, where they are being held on felony drug warrants.
  • Head-on crash kills Rayville man

    Head-on crash kills Rayville man

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:41 AM EDT2014-04-23 15:41:23 GMT
    RAYVILLE, La. (KNOE 8 News) -On April 22, 2014, at 8:00 p.m., Troopers assigned to Louisiana State Police Troop F responded to a two vehicle fatal crash on Whitehall Road south of Louisiana Highway 15.
    RAYVILLE, La. (KNOE 8 News) -On April 22, 2014, at 8:00 p.m., Troopers assigned to Louisiana State Police Troop F responded to a two vehicle fatal crash on Whitehall Road south of Louisiana Highway 15.
  • Murder-suicide being investigated in Rankin

    Murder-suicide being investigated in Rankin

    Thursday, April 24 2014 12:50 PM EDT2014-04-24 16:50:03 GMT
    BRANDON, Miss. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Authorities in Rankin County are investigation a possible murder-suicide.
    BRANDON, Miss. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Authorities in Rankin County are investigation a possible murder-suicide.
  • Vieux Carre put up for auction

    Vieux Carre put up for auction

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:15 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:15:30 GMT
    MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - The Vieux Carre store and restaurant on North 18th street is closed down, and the entire moveable contents are up for auction.
    MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - The Vieux Carre store and restaurant on North 18th street is closed down, and the entire moveable contents are up for auction.
  • Corrections officer arrested for sexual misconduct with inmate

    Corrections officer arrested for sexual misconduct with inmate

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 3:00 PM EDT2014-04-23 19:00:59 GMT
    DELHI, La. (KNOE 8 News) - Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at approximately PM, Richland Parish Sheriff’s personnel received a complaint of sexual misconduct from an offender incarcerated at Richland Parish Detention Center.
    DELHI, La. (KNOE 8 News) - Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at approximately PM, Richland Parish Sheriff’s personnel received a complaint of sexual misconduct from an offender incarcerated at Richland Parish Detention Center.
  • Security officer recognized for helping catch felon

    Security officer recognized for helping catch felon

    Thursday, April 24 2014 12:15 AM EDT2014-04-24 04:15:48 GMT
    MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News)- A Pecanland Mall security guard was appreciated for her bravery and tactical skills on apprehending a criminal.Angel Cook was recognized as the south central region security officer of the year.On January 30. Cook helped police find convicted felon Terresz Robinson.Cook noticed Robinson in the mall and immediately started to keep a close eye on him while alerting police.She credits her colleagues for helping in the arrest.Terresz Robinson was found guilty of second ...
    MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News)- A Pecanland Mall security guard was appreciated for her bravery and tactical skills on apprehending a criminal.Angel Cook was recognized as the south central region security officer of the year.On January 30. Cook helped police find convicted felon Terresz Robinson.Cook noticed Robinson in the mall and immediately started to keep a close eye on him while alerting police.She credits her colleagues for helping in the arrest.Terresz Robinson was found guilty of second ...
  • Dean Hart, Jr. given bail

    Dean Hart, Jr. given bail

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 5:02 PM EDT2014-04-23 21:02:22 GMT
    MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - A judge has given Dean Hart, Jr. the opportunity to post bail with conditions.Our reporter is in the courtroom, and we will update this story as it comes available.
    MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - A judge has given Dean Hart, Jr. the opportunity to post bail with conditions.Our reporter is in the courtroom, and we will update this story as it comes available.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KNOE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.