What happened in the first microseconds after the Big Bang?

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What happened in the first microseconds after the Big Bang?
What happened in the first microseconds after the Big Bang?

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have figured out what happened to a certain type of plasma - the very first matter in the universe - within the first microsecond after the Big Bang. Their discovery uncovers a piece of the puzzle about the evolution of the universe as we know it today: modern science says that about 14 billion years ago, our universe went from a much hotter and denser state to a radically expanding one - a process called the Big Bang. And while we know that this rapid expansion gave birth to particles, atoms, stars, galaxies and life on our planet, the details of exactly how the universe was born are still unknown. The new work, according to its authors, sheds light on the very first moments of the existence of all things. The results obtained allowed researchers to step by step restore the evolution of the early Universe - with the help of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, physicists were able to recreate that tiny window of time in which the entire Universe was relatively compact.

How did the universe come about?

The most well-grounded theory of the origin of our universe says that it was born in the process of the Big Bang. The researchers came to this conclusion by observing the galaxies - they are moving away from ours at a tremendous speed in all directions, as if driven by an ancient explosive force.

A Belgian priest named Georges Lemaitre first proposed the Big Bang theory in the 1920s, suggesting that the universe began with a single atom. This idea was developed thanks to the observations of Edwin Hubble, as well as the discovery in the 1960s of the cosmic microwave background radiation (relic radiation or the echo of the Big Bang) by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.


CMB is microwave background radiation that is the same in all directions. Has a spectrum characteristic of an absolutely black body at a temperature of ~ 2.7 K.

Further work by scientists helped clarify the pace of the Big Bang. Here's what National Geographic writes about it:

“In the first fractions of a second of its existence, the Universe was very compact - less than a million billion billions of billions in size of one atom. In such an inconceivably dense energy state, it is believed that four fundamental forces - gravity, electromagnetism, and strong and weak nuclear interactions - were combined into a single whole. However, how exactly this happened, as well as how gravity works on a subatomic scale, remains a mystery today.

The researchers also note that over time and the cooling of matter in the universe, more diverse types of particles began to form, which eventually condensed into stars and galaxies. Remarkably, by the time the universe was a billionth of a second old, it had cooled enough for the four fundamental forces to separate from each other, allowing fundamental particles to form.


Previous research in this has proven that quark-gluon plasma does exist.

And yet, it was not hot enough in the Universe, and many of the particles known today (for example, the proton), simply did not have time to form. Later, as the universe continued to expand, this scalding hot primordial soup called quark-gluon plasma continued to cool. This is how we come to the most interesting thing - recently, researchers from CERN working at the Large Hadron Collider were able to recreate the quark-gluon plasma.

The very first matter in the universe

So, by quark-gluon plasma, researchers mean the matter that existed during the first microsecond after the Big Bang. The researchers note that the plasma, consisting of quarks and gluons, was separated by the hot expansion of the universe, after which the remnants of the quark were transformed into so-called hadrons.

A hadron with three quarks forms a proton, which is part of atomic nuclei. These cores are the building blocks that make up the Earth, ourselves and the universe around us.

As the authors of the scientific work found out, quark-gluon plasma (QGP) was present in the first 0, 000001 seconds of the Big Bang, and then disappeared due to the expansion of the Universe. But with the help of the LHC at CERN, researchers were able to recreate this first matter and trace what happened to it.

“The collider collides ions from the plasma at a high speed - almost like the speed of light. This allows us to see how QGP has evolved from its own matter into atomic nuclei and the building blocks of life,”lead author Yu Zhou told Phys.org.


The Milky Way Galaxy is one of hundreds of billions of the same

For a long time, researchers thought that plasma was a form of gas, but a new analysis confirmed that the plasma was smooth and had a smooth soft texture like water. New details have also been demonstrated to show that plasma has changed its shape over time, which is surprising and very different from any other known matter.

This is interesting: What do scientists know about the age and expansion of the universe?

“Each discovery is a brick that increases our chances of learning the truth about the Big Bang. It took us about 20 years to figure out that quark-gluon plasma was fluid before it turned into hadrons and the building blocks of life. Therefore, our new knowledge about the constantly changing behavior of plasma is a real breakthrough, "- write the authors of the study.

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