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Cosmology-The Chronology of our Universe

Since the dawn of history, humans have looked to the stars, revering them as gods, learning their intricacies in order to navigate the lands, and using their light in the absence of sunlight. Yet, despite the study and cartography of the stars by early civilizations and explorers, few have come up with a concrete reason as to why stars exist. Over the dozens of centuries of written history, while we still don’t know if the universe is all that we believe it to be, our knowledge in cosmology, the study of the origin, properties, and evolution of our universe, has grown substantially with our realization that the universe began with a “Big Bang”, leading to the still-growing universe it is today. ​ While most discoveries in cosmology were made in more recent times of the 20th century onward, the foundation for many of these discoveries takes place prior to the Enlightenment of the 18th century. While early understandings of the universe came to believe that Earth was at its center, in the 16th century, against the church’s dominance, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus studied and proved not only that the Earth was not the center of our universe but that the Sun was the true center of our galaxy. In the following century, physicist Isaac Newton, through his famous legend of observing a falling apple while thinking about the force of nature, calculated gravity. Through these foundational discoveries, cosmologists of the modern-day have made landmark discoveries that have revealed how our universe was created and how it continues to change today. ​ In the 20th century, there were some cosmologists that discovered things about our universe’s past that we can visibly observe. The start of these discoveries came with theoretical physicist Albert Einstein who came up with his general theory of relativity. This theory unified our understanding of space and time in terms of gravity. Essentially, it suggests that the warping of space around an object is what causes the gravitational force with this warp, increasing with the object’s mass. Einstein proved this to be true for any object, no matter its speed or motion. Following this, cosmologists pondered whether the Milky Way Galaxy, the galaxy encompassing our solar system, encompassed our entire universe or if there were more galaxies than our own in the universe. With this question, astronomer Edwin Hubble sought to prove the existence of other galaxies, which he found were the clouds of dust and gas named “nebulae” we would see in the night sky. With this discovery, he also looked to find the distance between the Milky Way and its neighboring galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy. In his findings, Hubble found that this distance was more than 2.5 million light-years away, much further than initially anticipated. One of the latest and greatest discoveries of cosmologists is the late theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking. He found that, despite its enormous size, the Universe is finite, almost like a globe; while there is no concrete end to it, the universe rounds out like a globe. Nowadays, discoveries and research on our universe continue with no clear end; the discoveries made in our history only cover a small portion of what can be known in the universe. In recent years, more and more studies are delving into the cosmic microwave background, dark energy, and much more, which hope to help us better understand the beyond.

     

Source: Redd, Nola Taylor. “What Is Cosmology? Definition & History.” Space.com, Space, 26 Sept. 2017,

https://www.space.com/16042-cosmology.html

Wood, Charlie. “Cosmology: Uncovering the Story of the Universe.” LiveScience, Purch, 2 May 2019,

https://www.livescience.com/65384-cosmology.html.  

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