Hubble Telescope and the Big Bang theory of Universe

The science of Cosmology has always been fascinating especially when it touches on the origins of the universe. It amazes scientists as well as philosophers. The Big Bang theory of the universe had been one of the most controversial areas of cosmology,which occupied the minds of several brilliant scientists for almost one full century. Finally the momentous discovery was made by Hubble(Hubble telescope is named after him)who was credited with providing stunning evidences for the theory during 1920s. Interestingly though,Hubble never made such claims based on his discovery. He never bothered to draw obvious conclusions of his findings in terms of the ‘origin of the universe’. Rather,he left it entirely to others to interpret the significant implications of his experiments.
The Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe was proposed earlier by a Belgian scientist by name Lemaitre. However,his theory simply languished and in fact severely criticized by several including Einstein for want of experimental evidence. In fact in those days Einstein held so much sway over the scientific community that every one looked up to his views before accepting or rejecting a theory. Einstein of course had his own axe to grind in rejecting Lemaitre’s theory. Einstein had earlier proposed a rival theory stating that the universe is eternal and static meaning that it was never created. Therefore,he had to reject the Belgian’s theory in order to promote his own. In fact,he went to the extent of telling the Belgian in a conference that his physics was ‘abominable’. It is a different story that he had to finally eat a humble pie and accept the Big Bang theory once the powerful experimental evidence was provided by Hubble. It is one of the ironies of the history of science that the man who hated authority, himself became an authority and succumbed to human weaknesses associated with such an enviable position.

Now,coming to the main topic of the post which is about Hubble’s evidence,the observations made by Hubble were so simple and yet stunning that it almost sealed the debate on the issue. The arguments are so simple that even a school going could appreciate it. Let me try and capture the essence of Hubble’s evidence for the readers:
Observing through his powerful telescope,he found that all the galaxies including the ones which are far off are receding very fast continuously. And quite interestingly,according to Hubble’s law,the speed at which a galaxy is receding is directly proportional to the distance. In simple terms,this meant that the galaxies which are farther from us are receding at a faster pace and vice versa.
The above observations have obvious profound implications:
1.The universe is expanding continuously ever since its creation and speed of expansion is picking up continuously.
2. The Hubble’s law implies that at some time in the distant past(about 13 billion years ago)entire mass(or energy) of universe must have been concentrated at one point.
3.There was a momentous event (Big Bang),which must have created the universe and initiated the process of expansion.

Of course,Hubble’s discovery did not set at rest the debate as yet. Further clinching evidence came from the famous Russian scientist George Gamow(who turned American later)who explained the formation of gases Hydrogen,Helium and most importantly the element Carbon which was the basis of all life forms.
To complete the evidence provided by Hubble,scientists at Bell labs also provided another crucial evidence for Big Bang theory. They predicted that as an after effect of Big Bang,there should be Cosmic Microwave Background radiation,(CMB radiation)and in fact confirmed its existence through very precise measurements in space.

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Published in: on May 16, 2010 at 7:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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