Where we're at

I love this graph (click for big)! It shows our current understanding of the Big Bang, the immediate expansion of space, and then the much slower expansion caused by Dark Energy. Important to note that the reality of this graph would be a sphere expanding in all directions yet with no center, and not the cone shown here - it's a cone for ease of understanding.

The blue/green section to the left represents the pictures taken by the WMAP project, which shows us our earliest view of the Universe (in microwaves). Here (in sphere form):

Red equals high temperatures, blue low; an interesting fact to our existence is it is ONLY imperfections that allow us to exist. If the early universe were completely uniform (symmetrical), matter would not have had the chance to begin clumping together, and thus no accretion of matter. As the pictures above show, there was plenty of asymmetry in the early Universe, and is that imbalanced beginning which gave rise to anything and everything we see or know about today (in terms of matter).

One last pic, showing basically the same thing as the top picture:

This pic represents the farthest back we can see in visible light, via the Hubble. Future telescopes may be able to improve this a bit, but only so much - since, as you can see, there was a time in our Universe when there was no light - photons could not escape the densities of the early universe, and were unable to escape. Only with the arrival of the first stars (consider: There was a 1st star, somewhere at some time) does the fog clear, and light was free to travel, and continues to travel, billions of years later reaching your eyes

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