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Starts With A Bang

From Nothing To You In 12 Easy Steps

A 200 word journey from the Big Bang to modern humans.

“It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.” –Stephen Hawking

In the beginning, there was space and time, and the fabric of space was expanding at a fantastic rate.

Image credit: Amber Stuver, from her blog, Living Ligo, at

That inflationary state came to an end where we are, converting the energy of space into matter, antimatter and radiation.

The Big Bang produces matter and antimatter, with slightly more matter being created at some point, leading to our Universe today. Image credit: E. Siegel.

This hot, primordial soup expanded and cooled, creating a slight asymmetry between matter (slightly more) and antimatter (slightly less).

The transition of the Universe from ionized to neutral, at about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Images credit: Amanda Yoho.

The cooling continued, nuclei formed, and eventually, so did neutral atoms.

Star formation in its earliest stages, as illustrated by the nearby nebula Messier 78. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Spitzer Space Telescope.

These atoms clumped together in gravitationally overdense regions, forming the first stars after tens of millions of years.

A supernova explosion enriches the surrounding interstellar medium with heavy elements. Image credit: ESO / L. Calçada, of the remnant of SN 1987a.

The most massive stars run out of fuel and die in supernovae, enriching the Universe with heavy elements.

On larger scales, star clusters, galaxies and more merge together to form the large-scale structure we see today.

An infrared view from ESA’s Herschel observatory of a new star-forming region. Image credit: ESA / SPIRE / PACS / P. André (CEA Saclay).

On small scales, generations of recycled, burned-out stellar material give rise to new generations of stars.

The protoplanetary disk around the young star, HL Tauri, as photographed by ALMA. The gaps in the disk indicate the presence of new planets. Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO).

These later generations contain 1–2% heavy elements, some of which form rocky planets.

An illustration of the young solar system Beta Pictoris, somewhat analogous to our own Solar System during its formation. Image credit: Avi M. Mandell, NASA.

Some of these planets, rich with life’s fundamental ingredients, form in the habitable zones of their stars.

The Earth and Sun, not so different from how they might have appeared 4 billion years ago. Image credit: NASA/Terry Virts.

On one of them, 4+ billion years ago, life takes hold.

Humans looking at Mirador Crater in Costa Rica. Image credit: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, under a c.c.a.-s.a. 3.0 unported license.

After evolution, catastrophes, and extinction, we, the survivors, arrived.

Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of a single astronomical phenomenon or object primarily in visuals, with no more than 200 words of text.

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