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Expansion of the Universe. Natural consequence of the basic field equations of the General Theory of Relativity (GTR) When GTR was first developed in the 1920s, everyone thought the Universe was static

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Expansion of the Universe

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expansion of the universe
Expansion of the Universe
  • Natural consequence of the basic field equations of the General Theory of Relativity (GTR)
  • When GTR was first developed in the 1920s, everyone thought the Universe was static
  • Albert Einstein’s static solution: He arbitrarily introduced a cosmological constant Λ (later called it his “greatest blunder”)
  • Edwin Hubble’s observations of receding galaxies led to the discovery that the Universe is expanding
  • Hubble’s law: v = H0 d — where H0 ~ 70 km/s/Mpc (Hubble constant)


nature of the universal expansion
Nature of the Universal Expansion
  • Hubble’s law implies the Universe is expanding uniformly
  • Expansion of Universe can be thought of as the expansion of space itself
  • Observed redshift of distant galaxies — wavelength of photons “stretched” by the expansion of space
  • Not everything is expanding — if it were, we couldn’t detect the expansion since our rulers would be expanding in proportion to everything else in the Universe


the big bang
The Big Bang
  • Reverse extrapolation of Universal expansion → There must have been an instant of infinite density and temperature → The BIG BANG!
  • Phrase “Big Bang” was derisively coined by Fred Hoyle, but the name stuck!
  • It was not like an explosion: it happened everywhere!
  • Universe has a finite age: t ~ 1 / H0
  • We are not allowed to ask the question:

What happened before the Big Bang?


the future of the universe
The Future of the Universe
  • Is the expansion slowing down (i.e., decelerating) because of the mutual gravitational attraction of all the matter in the Universe?


  • Is the expansion speeding up (i.e., accelerating) because of a repulsive anti-gravity force (analogous to Einstein’s cosmological constant Λ?
  • One of the most exciting developments of the last decade is the discovery that the Universal expansion rate is actually ACCELERATING!


dark matter and dark energy
Dark Matter and Dark Energy
  • Critical density of matter needed to barely halt the Universe’s expansion: ρcrit ~ 10-30 g/cm3
  • Most of the matter in the Universe is DARK — total density of matter in the Universe ρ may or may not be equal to this critical density: Ωmatter ≡ ρ / ρcrit
  • How much DARK ENERGY (anti-gravity) is present in the Universe?
  • Determination of Ωmatterand ΩΛ are major goals / achievements of modern cosmology
  • Methods:
  • Density/dynamics of galaxies in the Universe
  • Geometrical properties of the Universe
  • Expansion rate in the Universe’s past
  • Search for dark matter particles / physical origin of dark energy


olbers paradox why is the night sky dark
Olbers’ Paradox: Why is the Night Sky Dark?
  • Assume uniform and infinite distribution of stars — night sky should be infinitely bright(!), but is observed to be dark
  • Paradox phrased by Olbers in 1823, though already well known for about a hundred years at the time
  • Stars are distributed over a finite volume (our Galaxy, for example) but the argument can be extended to the distribution of individual galaxies
  • Can absorption by dust in galaxies solve the paradox? NO! Dust would heat up and glow as a black body radiator
  • Universe has finite aget → observable Universe has a horizon at a finite distance ct — this is the most important factor in solving Olbers’ Paradox!


alternative to big bang theory steady state cosmology
Alternative to Big Bang theory:Steady State Cosmology
  • Cosmological Principle: Universe is homogenous and isotropic — the same everywhere in space
  • Perfect Cosmological Principle: Universe is the same at all times also — our Universe probably does not obey the Perfect Cosmological Principle
  • Steady State theory proposed as alternative to Big Bang by Bondi, Gold, & Hoyle in 1940s — a theory is based on Perfect Cosmological Principle
  • Requires that galaxies constantly be created at the expense of energy out of the so-called C-field
  • Not widely believed — discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is considered definitive evidence against Steady State cosmology


cosmic microwave background radiation cmbr
Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR)
  • Relic of the Big Bang (“afterglow” of initial fireball) predicted in late 1940s
  • Discovered by Penzias & Wilson in 1965 — they won the Nobel Prize for this discovery
  • CMBR studied in detail by satellites (COBE, WMAP)
  • Radiation comes from era of decoupling of matterand radiation in the early Universe (~300,000 years old) when neutral H atoms first formed