Winds of Time
Within easy view of the leonine body of the headless sphinx sculpted in the time of the pharaoh Horemheb, in the Eighteenth Dinasty (a millennium before Alexander), is a modern microwave relay tower. Between these two symbols of the Human civilisation runs an unbroken thread in the history of the human species.
From sphinx to tower is an instant of cosmic time – a moment in the fifteen or so billion years that have elapsed since the Big Bang ; and almost all record of the passage of the universe from then to now has been scattered by the winds of time.
The evidence of cosmic evolution has been thoroughly ravaged. And yet through daring and intelligence we have managed to reveal some of the secrets of the Universe.
… For ages after the explosive outpouring of matter and energy of the Big Bang, the Cosmos was without form. There were no galaxies, no planets, no life. Deep, impenetrable darkness was everywhere, hydrogen atoms in the void. Here and there denser accumulations of gas were imperceptibly growing, globes of matter were condensing – hydrogen raindrops more massive than suns. Within these globes of gas was first kindled the nuclear fire latent in matter.
A first generation of stars was born, flooding the Cosmos with light. There were in those times not yet any planets to receive the light, no living creatures to admire the radiance of the heavens. Deep in the stellar furnaces the alchemy of nuclear fusion created heavy elements, the ashes of hydrogen burning, the atomic building materials of future planets and lifeforms. Massive stars soon exhausted their stores of nuclear fuel. Rocked by colossal explosions, they returned most of their substance back into the thin gas from which they had once condensed.
We are the Glory and the Dim Memory of the Cosmos (quotations from Megan Jorgensen). Illustration: Cosmology by © Megan Jorgensen