Recent scientific breakthroughs suggest that time, the relentless force governing our lives, may not have always marched at the same pace.
It’s a reality that might have existed billions of years ago, challenging everything we thought we knew about the universe’s heartbeat.
Apparently, time in the early universe moved five times slower, which supports Einstein’s prediction.
So, let’s try to unravel the enigmatic dance of time, a journey that takes us to the very edges of scientific understanding and back to the dawn of existence.
The Big Bang & Cosmic Inflation
Our universe’s tale unfolds with an explosive inception known as the Big Bang. This event marked the beginning of cosmic inflation (ref), a rapid expansion that stretched the universe faster than the speed of light.
This early, chaotic phase was smoothed out by inflation, ensuring that distant regions, once in close contact, could exchange heat, leading to a surprisingly flat and uniformly tempered cosmos.
However, this expansion isn’t merely a spatial phenomenon.
It’s intricately linked with cosmological time dilation, where events observed at vast cosmic distances seem to unfold more slowly due to the increasing space between us and the event.
This effect, observed in phenomena like supernova light curves, is proportionate to the redshift, the stretching of light to longer wavelengths as the universe expands.
As we peer further into the cosmos, we’re not just looking across space but also back in time, witnessing a universe where time appears to stretch and yawn.
The Cosmic Microwave Background
Our primary evidence of the universe’s infancy is the cosmic microwave background (CMB)(ref) and the Big Bang’s lingering glow. This light, released 13.7 billion years ago, has stretched, or redshifted, as the universe expanded.
This redshifting, a key prediction of the hot Big Bang model (ref), is intricately tied to the black-body temperature of the CMB, which increases linearly with redshift.
While Einstein’s theory of relativity suggests that this spatial expansion should be mirrored by temporal stretching, the uniform distance of the CMB makes detecting this time dilation challenging.
Quasars: The Celestial Clocks
Enter quasars, the radiant hearts of early galaxies, have recently been used as cosmic ‘clocks’ to measure the stretching of time in the universe’s infancy. Researchers from the University of Sydney utilized nearly 200 quasars to analyze this time dilation (ref).
Their groundbreaking study revealed that the universe appeared to run five times slower over a billion years after the Big Bang (ref). This finding confirms the time-dilation expectations of Einstein’s general relativity and extends our understanding of the universe’s temporal dynamics to just a tenth of its current age.
By standardizing the ‘ticking’ of each quasar across different wavelengths, the researchers charted the influence of expanding space on these cosmic beacons, further affirming the universe’s complex dance with time.
Time Dilation In Action
The study found that the furthest quasars appeared to be moving in slow motion (ref), their light oscillating at one-fifth the original speed by the time it reached us. This suggests that if we could see these quasars up close, they would appear to spin five times slower.
But does this mean time itself moved slower in the early universe? Not exactly.
While it’s true that we’re observing these events unfold more slowly, it’s a result of our perspective, looking back across billions of years of expanding space.
The Future of Time & Space
As the universe continues to expand, there will come a point where time stretches infinitely. Beyond that, we’ll receive no new information from the cosmos.
The lights of distant galaxies will fade into darkness, and the universe will continue its expansion, leaving us in a sea of quiet darkness.
Martha A. Lavallie
Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.