Big Bang Gets New Adjectives-Open and Hot

by Hugh Ross

A big bang universe is a universe that began. A hot big bang implies one beginning only, that is, a universe where no rebounding or reincarnating is possible, because the level of entropy (efficiency of radiation release) is extremely high.(1) An open big bang implies a universe that never stops expanding because its mass is insufficient to halt it. If we could run time backward, like movie film, we could trace the open hot big bang to singular beginning in finite time, as the Bible declares.

Powerful assurance of the validity of this origin scenario comes from five different research groups all at the same time. Five sets of results independently and simultaneously confirm an open hot big bang creation. Each came up with the same measure for the universe's mass, expansion rate, and age.(2-3)

Some of these findings were made possible by discovery of the second most distant supernova of the Ia category found to date.(4) This supernova, glamorously named SN1997ap, was studied through five of the world's largest optical telescopes. Its distance (hence age), measured by the Keck II telescope, shows that it dates back to the time when the universe had reached only a little more than half its current expansion. Because of its distance from us in space and time, it can help us determine the change, the slowing, of the universe' expansion rate, a slowing caused by the mass of the universe (under gravity's influence).(5) Comparing the older expansion rate with the more recent rate indicated by nearer, younger Ia supernovae, an international team of 22 astronomers verified and refined previous mass density measures. The data showed that the universe contains one-fifth the mass required to slow the cosmic expansion to zero.(6) In other words, the universe is open.

The four other studies drew the same conclusion about the mass of the universe. One looked at the most distant galaxies to determine when in the history of the universe clusters of galaxies first formed.(7) The higher the mass density of the universe the later galaxies clusters will form. Another team looked into the relationship between the sizes and distances of a certain class of radio galaxies. Two other groups employed two different sets of distant supernovae. One of these groups, another huge international team, exploited the just discovered type Ia supernova, SN1977ck, which registers a record breaking distance.(8)

A small possibility remains that Einstein's hypothesized "fifth force of physics" exists at an appropriate value to complicate the dynamics of the universe. This force, better known as the cosmological constant, represents gravity's opposite. If it exists, it influences massive bodies to repel one another and the force of repulsion increases with the distance separating them. Its force would increase as the universe expands, just as gravity decreases.

From measurements based on SN1997ap, researchers were unable to firmly conclude whether or not a cosmological constant exists. They were able to show, however, that if a cosmological constant exists, its value is so small as to never discontinue (past or future) the expansion of the universe. If such a force exists at all, the universe will proceed not toward a halt but rather toward a runaway acceleration.(9) Again, the universe is, and will remain, open.

The data derived from observations of SN1997ap also rule out a bouncing universe with no big bang and a universe younger than the radioactive decay rates of thorium and uranium indicate.(10) Such disproofs have existed for several years,(11) but these new findings provide independent confirmation and provide it in a manner laypeople can more easily understand. All five research teams dated the moment of origin, the creation, at 15 billion years ago.(12)

All these advances delight observational cosmologists, but their greatest thrill at the moment seems to be coming from anticipation. They are now studying 36 additional, recently-discovered type Ia supernovae, 6 as distant as the two that formed the basis for much of the above research and 30 that are a little nearer.(13) A project is underway to detect type Ia supernovae of even more extreme distances. With the wealth of data from these observations, cosmologists will be able to refine significantly their measure of the mass density of the universe, the cosmological constant, and the creation date. We Christians will then have access to the most detailed creation model by far and with it, the opportunity to enhance the scientific case for faith in our Creator and Redeemer.


1. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, second edition (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1995), p. 20-28, 63-69.
2. David L. Chandler, "Scientists Decide There's Not As Much There in the Universe," Orange County Register, Health and Science, Jan. 9, 1998, p. 10.
3. James Glanz, "New Light on Fate of the Universe" Science, 278 (1997), pp. 799-800.
4. S. Perlmutter et al, "Discovery of a Supernova Explosion at Half the Age of the Universe," Nature, 391 (1998), pp. 51-54.
5. Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God, second edition (Orange, CA: Promise, 1991), pp. 44-49, 80-81.
6. S. Perlmutter et al, p. 53.
7. Govert Schilling, "Did Galaxies Bloom in Clumps?" Science, 279 (1998), p. 479.
8. Peter M. Garnavich et al, "Constraints on Cosmological Models from Hubble Space Telescope Observations of High-z Supernovae," Astrophysical Journal Letters, in the press (1998).
9. David Branch, "Density and Destiny," Nature, 391 (1998), p. 23.
10. S. Perlmutter et al, pp. 52-53.
11. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, second edition (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1995), pp. 20-47, 58-61, 63-69.
12. Deborah Zabarenko, "Universe to Endure and Expand Forever, Teams of Astronomers Say," Reuters News Service, Nando Times at, Jan. 9, 1998.
13. S. Perlmutter et al, p. 53.

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