ANSWERS: 6
  • Ok, I asked my father about this one, as he writes articles in the local newspaper about Astronomy, so if you rate this, remember you're rating HIS words! *L* His answer to the question is... "No, when the big bang happened, there were many years when light did not even exist. We can still detect the energy from the big bang as the cosmic background radiation. This radiates at a temperature of -4 degrees absolute. There was no light flash as light did not exist and there was nothing for it to shine on at that moment."
  • It is not just theoretically possible - light from the Big Bang is everywhere in the universe. And we have detected it with instruments like the COsmic Background Explorer (COBE) and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). To borrow Madge's line from the (old) Palmolive commercial, "You're soaking in it." Well, maybe that's not completely accurate. The microwave radiation we see with these instruments was released some 380,000 years after the Big Bang. But since the universe before that was opaque to radiation, and really, really hot, and since 380,000 years divided by 15,000,000,000 years (rough age of the universe) is about 0.000025, I'd say this microwave background radiation is pretty much from the Big Bang. Since the Big Bang is the hot, small, dense version of what we, and all objects in the universe, are inside of, all points in the universe are at the "center", which is to say all points are equivalent topologically. An analogy: if you stand on the surface of the Earth, you are in just as special (or just as common) a place as anywhere else on the surface of the Earth. What we see in every direction at the farthest distances - and therefore most ancient times - is a haze of microwave radiation. This "cosmic microwave background radiation" was first measured at a temperature of about 4 Kelvins, hence the phrase "four degree background radiation". The COBE satellite has found minute variation in the temperature of this radiation, as well as a more precise value of its temperature, now measured at 2.725 Kelvins. Another instrument, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has found even smaller variations in the temperature of the microwave background, and at higher resolutions. Some impressive images of the data from both of these instruments can be seen here: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/m_uni/uni_101Flucts.html The fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation are important because they may be why matter in the universe isn't distributed smoothly, but rather in lumps, like superclusters, clusters, galaxies, stars, and other things - us included!
  • Not really, no. If there was a big bang that started the universe, and if there was light associated with this event, both the solar system in which we live and the light would be moving away from the center of expansion. The light, travelling much faster than the matter, would have far outdistanced the matter in short order (following a stabilization of time-space allowing regular physics to operate). If all matter and energy in the universe started at the same point, the only way light from that event could be travelling toward us is if something turned it around or, if the universe is twisted or toriodal or something, if it looped back around from the other side. I don't think there are any big bang models that would allow this.
  • This is a rather complex subject. So, it well take a bit of explaining to clear up the misconceptions that I see in the other answers. First of all, let me say that I used to teach a college level astronomy course. So, I know whereof I write here. In the beginning was the Big Bang. Just what this even was we don't know. Our understanding of physics cannot take us back to the actual beginning yet. So, I will start at about one millionth of a second after the Big Bang. At this point, the universe was still very compact and very hot. Extremely high energy photons (gamma rays) existed with matter and antimatter particles. (I should make sure that you understand that photons are the particles that carry the energy of light. They have properties of particles and waves, but that is a subject for another discussion.) These photons had sufficient energy that they could combine to create pairs of matter and antimatter particles and the matter-antimatter particles were combining to annihilate each other to release gamma rays. (This is all in accordance with Einstein's famous equation E=mc^2.) At this point the rate of matter-antimatter creation was balanced by its rate of destruction. Additionally, something happened during this time that caused slightly more matter to be created than antimatter. As the universe expanded, the wavelength of this original gamma ray radiation grew proportionally with the universe. This caused the gamma rays to lose energy (a phenomenon know as the cosmic red shift). From 0.001 to 1 seconds, this loss of energy was sufficient to stop the gamma rays from combining to create matter-antimatter particle pairs. First they lost the ability to crate protons and antiprotons. Then they lost the ability to create electrons and positrons. At each of these points the matter & antimatter particles combined annihilating each other, leaving behind just the small residual of matter in the form of freely moving protons, electrons, and neutrons. These particles continued to interact with the photons. The universe continued to expand and the photons continued to lose energy as the cosmic red shift continued to cause their wavelengths to increase. A number of things happened as a result of this. The most important of these to the question at hand happened at about 300,000 years after the Big Bang. At this point the the cosmic red shift had cooled the radiation to the point at which the temperature of the universe had dropped to about 3,000 Kelvins (2,713 degrees C). At this point electrons were able to combine with protons to create complete hydrogen atoms. What does this have to do with light? As long as the electrons were not bound to protons to form atoms, the electrons could freely interact with the photons. Once they became bound into atoms, the electrons could then only interact with photons of very specific and limited wavelengths. Prior to this point the light would have come at an observer as if out of a fog. Just as with a fog, the observer would not be able to see very far in any one direction. However after the the electrons became bound into atoms, the universe became transparent. This background radiation, which had been bouncing around the universe from the beginning was able to move unhindered. Additionally, the cosmic red shift had caused this light's wavelengths to be stretched out to the point that it was now in the visible portion of the spectrum. Further red shifting over the the estimate 12 billion years since that time has cause the temperature of this light to to drop until it now is at about 4 K (-269 degrees C). This places it in the wavelengths that we call microwaves. Now, to address Thom64's comment. Tom, you are think in terms of expansion as we might experience it in our every day lives. However, the expansion of the Universe is quite a bit more complicated. In order to understand this concept, it is necessary to think in terms of more than three spacial dimensions. This is difficult because we can only perceive the three dimensions that are actually part of our universe. So, we must think in terms of a hypothetical two dimensional universe. This universe is represented by the surface of a balloon. This universe is contained entirely in the surface of the balloon. The inhabitants of this universe have now way of detecting anything that is either inside the balloon or out side the balloon. They can only see what is contained in the surface of the balloon. On this surface we glue beads to represent the galaxies of this universe. Now, as we inflate the balloon, this universe expands carrying the beads (galaxies) farther apart. The center of expansion is in the center of the balloon, but that is outside of the universe because the universe is only the the balloons surface. Therefore, it is useless for the inhabitants of this universe to speak of a center of expansion because it is not part of their universe. They just see the universe expanding equally in all directions. These basic concepts apply to our universe. We can see that the galaxies are all rushing away from each other. The rates of this expansion are equal in all directions. There is no center of expansion with in our universe. So, how does this apply to the light that was generated in the Big Bang? At the time that of the Big Bang, the universe was filled with light. It was not radiating out from a center of expansion because there is not one in this universe. This light bounced around and traveled in random directions and came from random points. I just was everywhere. When the universe became transparent, this light was able to move freely, but it was still everywhere and individual photons were traveling in random directions. So, the photons that were originally in our part of the universe when it became transparent have long since moved only to be replaced by other photons that have come from other parts of the universe. These photons don't come from any one part of the universe, but from all around us. Thus we can detect this radiation no matter where we look for it.
  • The answer is no because the "Big Bang" didn't happen.

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