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Article Review in Earth Science

Theories on the origin of the Universe: The Open Universe

Prepared by:

Kyla Cristine M. Celestino

Theories on the origin of the Universe: The Open Universe

I. Introduction

Our universe was thought to be finite for thousands of years. In 1920, The Great

Debate, also called the Shapley-Curtis Debate, occurred in Washington, where Shapley

argued that our Milky Way was the Universe’s only galaxy, and Curtis argued that there

were many other galaxies in the Universe, but none of the opponents had any concrete

evidence to prove their theories.

However, in 1929 Edwin Hubble supplied observational proof from which he

concluded that alongside our Milky Way Galaxy, there were millions of galaxies in our

Universe. And he also discovered out in the process of finding that our Galaxy was

actually growing. The Great Debate’s public formation affected how ideas were

presented and eventually led to the Debate’s path. This article asserts how Edwin

Hubble proved wrong with Shapley’s growing Universe discovery.

From this discovery, we came to understand that our Universe was very small at

some stage in the past, likely small point then it began to expand after the Big Bang.

This was a great discovery that altered physics history. The article also explores at the

end-if our Universe continues to grow or is there a limit.

II. Key points

 Two main theoretical pillars of the Big Bang model: The General Theory of
Relativity and the Cosmological Principle.

 The Open Universe

 The discovery of expanding universe and Hubble’s law.

 The properties of expanding universe.

The two main theoretical pillars

The Big Bang is usually considered to be a theory of the birth of the universe,

although technically it does not exactly describe the origin of the universe, but rather

attempts to explain how the universe developed from a very tiny, dense state into what

it is today. It is just a model to convey what happened and not a description of an actual


It really describes a very rapid expansion or stretching of space itself rather than

an explosion in pre-existing space. Perhaps a better analogy sometimes used to

describe the even expansion of galaxies throughout the universe is that of raisins baked

in a cake becoming more distant from each other as the cake rises and expands, or

alternatively of a balloon inflating.

The Big Bang model rests on two main theoretical pillars: the General Theory of

Relativity (Albert Einstein's generalization of Sir Isaac Newton's original theory of

gravity) and the Cosmological Principle (the assumption that the matter in the universe

is uniformly distributed on the large scales, that the universe is homogeneous and

The Open Universe

For the thousands of years, the astronomers have been dealing with the basic

issues about the size and age of Universe. Does the universe go on forever, or does it

have an edge somewhere? Has it always existed, or did it come to being sometime in

the past? In 1929, Edwin Hubble, an astronomer at Caltech, made a critical discovery

that soon led to scientific answers for these questions: he discovered that the universe

is expanding.

The ancient Greeks recognized that it was difficult to imagine what an infinite

universe might look like. The Greeks' two problems with the universe represented a

paradox - the universe had to be either finite or infinite, and both alternatives presented


After the rise of modern astronomy, another paradox began to puzzle

astronomers. In the early 1800s, German astronomer Heinrich Olbers argued that the

universe must be finite. If the Universe were infinite and contained stars throughout,

Olbers said, and then if you looked in any particular direction, your line-of-sight would

eventually fall on the surface of a star. Although the apparent size of a star in the sky

becomes smaller as the distance to the star increases, the brightness of this smaller

surface remains a constant. Therefore, if the Universe were infinite, the whole surface of

the night sky should be as bright as a star. Obviously, there are dark areas in the sky,

so the universe must be finite.

But, when Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity, he realized that gravity is

always attractive. Every object in the universe attracts every other object. If the universe
truly were finite, the attractive forces of all the objects in the universe should have

caused the entire universe to collapse on itself. This clearly had not happened, and so

astronomers were presented with a paradox.

When Einstein developed his theory of gravity in the General Theory of Relativity,

he thought he ran into the same problem that Newton did: his equations said that the

universe should be either expanding or collapsing, yet he assumed that the universe

was static. His original solution contained a constant term, called the cosmological

constant, which cancelled the effects of gravity on very large scales, and led to a static

universe. After Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding, Einstein called the

cosmological constant his "greatest blunder."

The discovery of Expanding Universe and Hubble’s Law

In 1925, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble stunned the scientific

community by demonstrating that there was more to the universe than just our Milky

Way galaxy and that there were, in fact, many separate islands of stars - thousands,

perhaps millions of them, and many of them huge distances away from our own.

Then, in 1929, Hubble announced a further dramatic discovery which completely

turned astronomy on its ear. With the benefit of improved telescopes, Hubble started to

notice that the light coming from these galaxies was shifted a little towards the red end

of the spectrum due to the Doppler effect (known as “redshift”), which indicated that the

galaxies were moving away from us. After a detailed analysis of the redshifts of a

special class of stars called Cepheids, Hubble concluded that the galaxies and clusters

of galaxies were in fact flying apart from each other at great speed, and that the
universe was therefore definitively growing in size. In effect, all the galaxies we see are

slightly red in color due to redshift.

Hubble showed that, in our expanding universe, every galaxy is rushing away

from us with a speed which is in direct proportion to its distance, known as Hubble’s

Law, so that a galaxy that is twice as far away as another is receding twice as fast, one

ten times as far away if receding ten times as fast, etc. The law is usually stated as

v = H0D, where v is the velocity of recession, D is the distance of the galaxy from the

observer and H0 is the Hubble constant which links them. The exact value of the Hubble

constant itself has long been the subject of much controversy: Hubble's initial estimates

were of the order of approximately 500 kilometers per second per mega parsec

(equivalent to about 160 km/sec/million light years); the most recent best estimates, with

the benefit of the Hubble Telescope and the WMAP probe, is around 72 kilometers per

second per mega parsec.

This expansion, usually referred to as the

"metric expansion" of space, is a “broad-brush

effect” in that individual galaxies themselves are not

expanding, but the clusters of galaxies into which

the matter of the universe has become divided are

becoming more widely separated and more thinly

spread throughout space. Thus, the universe is not

expanding "outwards" into pre-existing space;

space itself is expanding, defined by the relative separation of parts of the universe.

Returning to the image of the expanding universe as a balloon inflating, if tiny dots are
painted on the balloon to represent galaxies, then as the balloon expands so the

distance between the dots increases, and the further apart the dots the faster they move

apart. Another analogy often used (and maybe even clearer) is that of a raisin cake

expanding as it bakes, so that the raisins (galaxies) gradually all move away from each


In such an expansion, then, the universe continues to look more or less the same

from every galaxy, so the fact that we see all the galaxies receding from us does not

necessarily mean that we are at the very center of the universe: observers in all other

galaxies would also see all the other galaxies flying away according to the same law,

and the pattern of galactic dispersal would appear very much the same from anywhere

in the cosmos.

The old model of a static universe, which had served since Sir Isaac Newton,

was thus proved to be incontrovertibly false, but Hubble’s discovery did more than just

show that the universe was changing over time. If the galaxies were flying apart, then

clearly, at some earlier time, the universe was smaller than at present. Following back

logically, like a movie played in reverse, it must ultimately have had some beginning

when it was very tiny indeed, an idea which gave rise to the theory of the Big Bang.

Although now almost universally accepted, this theory of the beginnings of the universe

was not immediately welcomed by everyone, and several strands of corroborating

evidence were needed, as we will see in the following sections.

In the face of Hubble’s evidence, Einstein was also forced to abandon his idea of

a force of cosmic repulsion, calling it the “biggest blunder” he had ever made. But
others, notably the Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann and the Belgian priest and

physicist Georges Lemaître, had already used Einstein’s own theory of proof that the

universe was in fact in motion, either contracting or expanding. It is now recognized that

Einstein’s description of gravity as the curvature of space-time in his General Theory of

Relativity was actually one of the first indications of a universe which had grown out of

much humbler beginnings.

III. Conclusion

It might be easier to explain about the beginning of the universe and the Big

Bang Theory, than to talk about how it will end. It is possible that the universe will last

forever, or it may be crushed out of existence in a reverse of the Big Bang scenario, but

that would be so far in the future that it might as well be infinite. Until recently,

cosmologists assumed that the rate of the universe’s expansion was slowing because of

the effects of gravity. However, current research indicates that the universe may expand

to eternity. But research continues and new studies of supernovae in remote galaxies

and a force called dark energy may modify the possible fates of the universe.

IV. Summary

The universe' existence began with an event called the "Big Bang", when space

and time came into being. At first, the space was very, very small, less than 10-35m,

and filled with energy. But the universe began expanding, what it still does. Expansion

means, that the space between galaxies gets bigger. So the galaxies "run away" from

each other.
A parameter for this expansion is the Hubble constant. It is named after Edwin Powell

Hubble, who lived from 1889 to 1953. He worked at the Mt Wilson Observatory and

explored the movement of the galaxies. What he found out is, that the bigger the

distance between a galaxy and the observer is, the faster they move away from each

other. The Hubble constant describes the relation between the distance and the

velocity. The red shift, that means how much the light is redder than usual, is used to

determine a galaxy's velocity. For the measuring of a galaxy's distance, the real

brightness of a star in that galaxy is needed, which can be determined with the help of

cepheids or supernovae. Cepheids are bright, pulsating stars and supernovae are dying


How the universe may end, depends on the density of the universe. If the density is

smaller than a critical worth, the universe will expand eternally. If the density is greater,

the universe is going to stop expanding and will start to collapse.

But all cosmological theories are to some point speculative. The problem is, that nobody

can travel through space and time to find out how it really is.
V. Reference:

What does it mean when they say the universe is expanding? (n.d.). Retrieved from


The Expanding Universe and Hubble's Law. (n.d.). Retrieved from