The Universe in a Day

The Canadian Astronomical Society/Societe Canadienne D’Astronomie (CASCA) started a shared twitter account, @AstroCanada, in 2013. Each week, a different Canadian astronomer takes the helm, tweeting about their research, interests, and experiences. I have done this two times in the past, once when I was observing at the Bok Telescope, atop Kitt Peak mountain. Again, for the week of 14-20 July 2014, I decided to do some tweeting from the @AstroCanada account, but how to make my mark this time? This is where the Universe in a Day idea comes in.

The Universe in a Day was the brain child of my supervisor, Patrick Hall, and is inspired by an assignment he gives to his first year astronomy students. The idea is to condense the entire history of the Universe into a 24 hour period. Thus, at 00:00:00 the Big Bang occurs, and 23:59:59.99999 is present day. Having been converted into the scale of a day, each event is thus easily tweetable. Beginning at 00:00:00 UTC on 18th July 2014, I tweeted the list of events below at their appropriate times.
The event is listed in the first column, and it’s actual time of occurring (in the units of ‘years ago’) is the second column. I then transferred that to a ‘time elapsed’ in seconds. To determine the scale, I had to determine how many actual years elapse for every 1 second that elapses in our ‘Universe in a Day.’ That calculation is:

    \begin{equation*} \frac{13,718,160,000}{24\times60\times60} = 158,775 \end{equation*}

Thus, in 1 second of our ‘Universe in a Day,’ 158,775 years of actual time go by. With this scaling, it is easy to work out the time of day a given event will happen (of course, you must know the actual time at which the event happened in the Universe’s history).
The events 19-28 all occur within the last minute of the day, and the events 21-28 all occur within the last second! In order to make sure the order came out properly via tweetdeck, I spread these events out over a few minutes. The UTC tag is still in each tweet, they just aren’t coming out at exactly the appropriately scaled time as they should have. But something tells me tweetdeck doesn’t have resolution to 1/100000th of a second.
(NB: events 22, 24, 26 were not tweeted to keep things less busy near the end of the 24 hr period.)

Event Actual Time (yrs ago) Timeline (sec elapsed) Time of Day
01. The Big Bang 13,718,160,000 0 00:00:00
02. CMB light is released 13,717,794,600 00:00:02
03. The first stars form 13,250,000,000 2,948  00:49:09
04. Light from Galaxy at z=8.2 is sent 13,079,232,000 4,024  01:07:04
05. The Milky Way's disk stars form 10,000,000,000 23,417 06:30:18
06. Light from naked eye GRB released 7,516,800,000 39,057 10:50:57
07. Our Solar System forms 4,560,000,000 57,680  16:01:20
08. Polaris forms 4,000,000,000 61,207 17:00:07
09. The first carbon isotope evidence of life on Earth 3,850,000,000 62,151 17:15:52
10. The first fossil microbes 3,500,000,000 64,356 17:52:36
11. The first multicellular organisms arise 2,100,000,000 73,173 20:19:34
12. Light from the Sloan Great Wall released 939,600,000 80,482 22:21:22
13. First complex life arises 542,000,000 82,986 23:03:06
14. First plant/fungi colonize land 454,000,000 83,540 23:12:21
15. Animals first appear on land 400,000,000 83,880 23:18:00
16. Vega forms 400,000,000 83,880 23:18:00
17. Extinction of the Dinosaurs 65,000,000 85,990 23:53:11
18. Light from the Virgo galaxy cluster released 62,640,000 86,005 23:53:25
19. Betelgeuse forms 8,600,000 86,345 23:59:06
20. Light from Andromeda released 2,531,700 86,384 23:59:44
21. Homo Sapiens Sapiens (modern humans) first appear 195,000 86,398.77184 23:59:58.77184
22. Light from the LMC is released 169,650 86,398.93150 23:59:58.93150
23. Human hunter-gatherer societies develop 30,000 86,399.81105 23:59:59.81105
24. Light from the MW centre is released 26,100 86,399.83562 23:59:59.83562
25. The end of the most recent ice age 11,500 86,399.92757 23:59:59.92757
26. Light from Deneb is released 1,300 86,399.99181 23:59:59.99181
27. Canada declares independence 147 86,399.99909 23:59:59.99909
28. Light from \alphaCentauri is released 4.35 86,399.99997 23:59:59.99997

1. The Big Bang: The term ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ was coined by astronomer Fred Hoyle in an attempt to juxtapose the two competing cosmological models of the time (the other being a ‘Steady State’ Universe). Unfortunately, the name stuck and is actually supremely misleading. It would be much more accurate to call it ‘The Everywhere Stretch Theory.’ The most recent data taken with the Planck space telescope indicates the Big Bang occurred 13,796,500,00\pm37,000,000 years ago. See Table 10 of this paper.
2. The CMB: The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is often referred to as ‘left over energy from the Big Bang.’ Effectively this is true, however, it glosses over so much interesting physics. As the Universe expanded, it reached a point where it was cool enough for atoms to form; it was at this point the light we observe in the CMB was sent towards Earth. A funny anecdote: the astronomers that discovered the CMB Radiation, Penzias & Wilson (1965), did it by accident (there’s a hilarious pigeon poop story that goes along with that). The two astronomers couldn’t account for a residual signal they were receiving in their brand spankin’ new telescope at Bell Telephone Laboratories; as a result they called a fellow astronomer Robert Dicke to ask for help. Dicke realized the signal they were receiving was indeed the predicted CMBR, which Dicke had been looking for himself. Famously, Dicke quipped ‘Boys, we’ve been scooped’ to his research team.
3. The first stars: At some point in the early Universe, stars began forming. These first stars, the first to condense out of the gas and plasma beginning to collect gravitationally, are known as Population III stars.


THIS is a work in progress… it will be filled out slowly as I find time to add my research to the post. However, any suggestions of events I missed, please send them my way.


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