In physical cosmology
, the Big Bang
is the scientific theory
that the universe
emerged from a tremendously dense
state about 13.7 billion years ago. The theory is based on the observations indicating the expansion
(in accord with the Robertson-Walker model
of general relativity
) as indicated by the Hubble redshift
of distant galaxies
taken together with the cosmological principle
Extrapolated into the past, these observations show that the universe has expanded from a state in which all the matter and energy in the universe was at an immense temperature and density. Physicists do not widely agree on what happened before this, although general relativity predicts a gravitational singularity (for reporting on some of the more notable speculation on this issue, see cosmogony).
The term Big Bang is used both in a narrow sense to refer to a point in time when the observed expansion of the universe (Hubble's law) began — calculated to be 13.7 billion (1.37 × 1010) years ago (±2%) — and in a more general sense to refer to the prevailing cosmological paradigm explaining the origin and expansion of the universe, as well as the composition of primordial matter through nucleosynthesis as predicted by the Alpher-Bethe-Gamow theory.
From this model, George Gamow in 1948 was able to predict, at least qualitatively, the existence of cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). The CMB was discovered in 1964 and further corroborated the Big Bang theory, giving it an additional advantage over its chief rival, the steady state theory.
A black hole is an object predicted by general relativity with a gravitational field so strong that nothing can escape it — not even light.
A black hole is defined to be a region of space-time where escape to the outside universe is impossible. The boundary of this region is a surface called the event horizon. This surface is not a physically tangible one, but merely a figurative concept of an imaginary boundary. Nothing can move from inside the event horizon to the outside, even briefly.
The existence of black holes in the universe is well supported by astronomical observation, particularly from studying X-ray emission from X-ray binaries and active galactic nuclei. It has also been hypothesized that black holes radiate energy due to quantum mechanical effects known as Hawking radiation.
The Cat's Eye Nebula
) is a planetary nebula
in the constellation of Draco
. Structurally, it is one of the most complex nebulae known, with high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope
observations revealing remarkable structures such as knots, jets and sinewy arc-like features.
It was discovered by William Herschel on February 15, 1786, and was the first planetary nebula whose spectrum was investigated, by the English amateur astronomer William Huggins in 1864.
Modern studies reveal several mysteries. The intricacy of the structure may be caused in part by material ejected from a binary central star, but as yet, there is no direct evidence that the central star has a companion. Also, measurements of chemical abundances reveal a large discrepancy between measurements done by two different methods, the cause of which is uncertain.
: 百武彗星 Hyakutake suisei
, IPA [çakɯtake sɯiseː]
; formally designated C/1996 B2
) is a comet
that was discovered in January 1996, and passed very close to the Earth
in March of that year. It was dubbed The Great Comet of 1996
, and was one of the closest cometary approaches to the Earth in the previous 200 years, resulting in the comet appearing very bright in the night sky and being seen by a large number of people around the world. The comet temporarily upstaged the long-awaited Comet Hale-Bopp
, which was approaching the inner solar system
at the time, although Hyakutake was at its brightest for only a few days.
Scientific observations of the comet led to several notable discoveries. Most surprising to cometary scientists was the discovery of X-ray emission from the comet, the first time a comet had been found to be emitting X-rays. This emission is believed to be caused by ionised solar wind particles interacting with neutral atoms in the coma of the comet. The Ulysses spacecraft also unexpectedly crossed the comet's tail at a distance of more than 500 million km from the nucleus, showing that Hyakutake had the longest tail yet known for a comet.
Hyakutake is a long period comet. Before its most recent passage through the solar system, its orbital period was about 15,000 years, but the gravitational influence of the giant planets has now increased this to 72,000 years.