The beginning (& end?) of all things: the view from science

Commonly held to be the ultimate source of the universe, the Big Bang is the theory that the universe started out as a tiny, hot and extremely dense area which has, over the past several billion years, gradually expanded and cooled. Beyond the Big Bang lies terra incognita - at present, in all likelyhood, we will never discover what actually caused the Big Bang to occur, bringing in the timeline of the universe.

Time Event Description
0 seconds Big Bang  
Primordial Era
0 to 10–43 Planck epoch Smallest theoretical observable unit of time
all fundamental forces of equal strength
10–43 to 10–36 Grand unification epoch Gravitation separates from gauge interactions
Only particle is Higgs boson
10-36 Separation of strong and electronuclear forces
10–36 to 10–12 Elecroweak epoch Separation of strong and electroweak interactions at
10–36 to 10–32 Inflationary epoch Exponential inflation
10-32 Reheating after inflation populates universe with quarks and antiquarks - baryogenesis?
1 picosecond-
1 microsecond
Quark epoch Weak force separates from electromagnetic force
Quark-gluon plasma forms universe and gradually cools
Quarks confined within hadrons
1 microsecond-
1 second
Hadron epoch Hydrogen nuclei form after 1 mllisecond
Neutrinos cease to interact with other particles after 1 second
Hadrons and antihadrons annihilate
1-10 seconds Lepton epoch Leptons and antileptons dominate the universe for 10 seconds before universal cooling causes them to annihilate
10 seconds-
350,000 years
Photon epoch Photons dominate, interacting wih protons, electrons and, later, nuclei
Universe largely composed of photon-baryon fluid
3-20 minutes Big Bang nucleosynthesis Protons (hydrogen ions) combine in nuclear fusion reactions to form helium nuclei until cooling prevents further fusion
70,000 years Matter domination Cold dark matter (atomic nuclei) comes to dominate over relativistic radiation (photons)
c.377,000 Recombination Density of the universe falls
Hydrogen & helium atoms begin to form
Photons emitted after recombination become CMB
c.377,000-
100 million
Dark ages Universe, composed of baryonic matter, appears foggy - light here unobservable through telescopes
Stelliferous Era
100 million Formation of stars First Population III stars, massive & unstable, live short lives
150 million-
1 billion
Reionisation Gravitational collapse forms first quasars
Universe reionised by radiation therefrom
500 million Formation of HE 1523-0901 HE 1523-0901, at 13.2 billion years old, is the oldest star in the Milky Way
600 million Formation of galaxies Large amounts of matter collapse to form galaxies
Population II stars emerge early doors
4 billion Formation of Population I stars
Formation of Milky Way Galactic Disk
8 billion Formation of Solar System
9.1 billion Formation of Earth and Sun
13.7 billion
give or take
Today
19.1 billion Sun becomes red giant and then white dwarf
100,000,000,000,000 Formation of stars ceases
Fusion ceases
1,000,000,000,000,000 Solar systems cease to exist - planets flung out of orbit or consumed by larger bodies
Sun becomes black dwarf
Degenerate Era
c.116 log year Degenerate Era begins (to c.160 log year)
c.130 Galaxies cease to exist
Stars flung out or consumed by black holes
c.157 Half of protons have decayed
c.160 All protons decay
The matter stars and life are made of cease to exist
Black Hole Era
c.180 Evaporation of a black hole of 1 solar mass
c.200 Evaporation of a supermassive black hole of 10 billion solar masses
Dark Era
c.200-c.300
c.300 Heat death?

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Notes & references

Day, John (1985). God's conflict with the dragon and the sea: Echoes of a Canaanite myth in the Old Testament. Cambridge University Press.
Fishbane, Michael (2003). Biblical Myth & Rabbinic Mythmaking. Oxford University Press.

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