A black hole is a region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing—not even particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from inside it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole. The boundary of the region from which no escape is possible is called the event horizon. Although the event horizon has an enormous effect on the fate and circumstances of an object crossing it, no locally detectable features appear to be observed. In many ways a black hole acts like an ideal black body, as it reflects no light. Moreover, quantum field theory in curved spacetime predicts that event horizons emit Hawking radiation, with the same spectrum as a black body of a temperature inversely proportional to its mass. This temperature is on the order of billionths of a kelvin for black holes of stellar mass, making it essentially impossible to observe.
A quasar (/ˈkweɪzɑːr/) (also known as a QSO or quasi-stellar object) is an extremely luminous active galactic nucleus (AGN). It has been theorized that most large galaxies contain a supermassive central black hole with mass ranging from millions to billions of solar masses. In quasars and other types of AGN, the black hole is surrounded by a gaseous accretion disk. As gas in the accretion disk falls toward the black hole, energy is released in the form of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation can be observed across the electromagnetic spectrum at radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray, and gamma wavelengths. The power radiated by quasars is enormous: the most powerful quasars have luminosities exceeding 1041 watts, thousands of times greater than an ordinary large galaxy such as the Milky Way.
A neutron star is the collapsed core of a large star which before collapse had a total of between 10 and 29 solar masses. Neutron stars are the smallest and densest stars, not counting hypothetical quark stars and strange stars. Typically, neutron stars have a radius on the order of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) and a mass between 1.4 and 2.16 solar masses. They result from the supernova explosion of a massive star, combined with gravitational collapse, that compresses the core past the white dwarf star density to that of atomic nuclei. Once formed, they no longer actively generate heat, and cool over time; however, they may still evolve further through collision or accretion. Most of the basic models for these objects imply that neutron stars are composed almost entirely of neutrons (subatomic particles with no net electrical charge and with slightly larger mass than protons); the electrons and protons present in normal matter combine to produce neutrons at the conditions in a neutron star. Neutron stars are supported against further collapse by neutron degeneracy pressure, a phenomenon described by the Pauli exclusion principle, just as white dwarfs are supported against collapse by electron degeneracy pressure. If the remnant star has a mass greater than about 3 solar masses, it continues collapsing to form a black hole.
A supernova (/ˌsuːpərnoʊvə/ plural: supernovae /ˌsuːpərnoʊviː/ or supernovas, abbreviations: SN and SNe) is a transient astronomical event that occurs during the last stellar evolutionary stages of a star’s life, either a massive star or a white dwarf, whose destruction is marked by one final, titanic explosion. This causes the sudden appearance of a “new” bright star, before slowly fading from sight over several weeks or months or years.
Supernovae are more energetic than novae. In Latin, nova means “new”, referring astronomically to what appears to be a temporary new bright star. Adding the prefix “super-” distinguishes supernovae from ordinary novae, which are far less luminous. The word supernova was coined by Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky in 1931.
The cosmic microwave background (CMB, CMBR) is electromagnetic radiation as a remnant from an early stage of the universe in Big Bangcosmology. In older literature, the CMB is also variously known as cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) or “relic radiation”. The CMB is a faint cosmic background radiation filling all space that is an important source of data on the early universe because it is the oldest electromagnetic radiation in the universe, dating to the epoch of recombination. With a traditional optical telescope, the space between stars and galaxies (the background) is completely dark. However, a sufficiently sensitive radio telescope shows a faint background noise, or glow, almost isotropic, that is not associated with any star, galaxy, or other object. This glow is strongest in the microwave region of the radio spectrum. The accidental discovery of the CMB in 1964 by American radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was the culmination of work initiated in the 1940s, and earned the discoverers the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model describes how the universe expanded from a very high-density and high-temperature state,and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background (CMB), large scale structure and Hubble’s law. If the known laws of physics are extrapolated to the highest density regime, the result is a singularity which is typically associated with the Big Bang. Physicists are undecided whether this means the universe began from a singularity, or that current knowledge is insufficient to describe the universe at that time. Detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe place the Big Bang at around 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity in halos of dark matter, eventually forming the stars and galaxies visible today.
In physical cosmology and astronomy, dark energy is an unknown form of energy which is hypothesized to permeate all of space, tending to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted hypothesis to explain the observations since the 1990s indicating that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.
Assuming that the standard model of cosmology is correct, the best current measurements indicate that dark energy contributes 68.3% of the total energy in the present-day observable universe. The mass–energy of dark matter and ordinary (baryonic) matter contribute 26.8% and 4.9%, respectively, and other components such as neutrinos and photons contribute a very small amount. The density of dark energy (~ 7 × 10−30 g/cm3) is very low, much less than the density of ordinary matter or dark matter within galaxies. However, it dominates the mass–energy of the universe because it is uniform across space.
Two proposed forms for dark energy are the cosmological constant, representing a constant energy density filling space homogeneously, and scalar fields such as quintessence or moduli, dynamic quantities whose energy density can vary in time and space. Contributions from scalar fields that are constant in space are usually also included in the cosmological constant. The cosmological constant can be formulated to be equivalent to the zero-point radiation of space i.e. the vacuum energy. Scalar fields that change in space can be difficult to distinguish from a cosmological constant because the change may be extremely slow.
Dark matter is a hypothetical form of matter that is thought to account for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe, and about a quarter of its total energy density. The majority of dark matter is thought to be non-baryonic in nature, possibly being composed of some as-yet undiscovered subatomic particles.[note 1] Its presence is implied in a variety of astrophysical observations, including gravitational effects that cannot be explained unless more matter is present than can be seen. For this reason, most experts think dark matter to be ubiquitous in the universe and to have had a strong influence on its structure and evolution. The name dark matter refers to the fact that it does not appear to interact with observable electromagnetic radiation, such as light, and is thus invisible (or ‘dark’) to the entire electromagnetic spectrum, making it extremely difficult to detect using usual astronomical equipment.
The primary evidence for dark matter is that calculations show that many galaxies would fly apart instead of rotating, or would not have formed or move as they do, if they did not contain a large amount of unseen matter. Other lines of evidence include observations in gravitational lensing,from the cosmic microwave background, from astronomical observations of the observable universe‘s current structure, from the formation and evolution of galaxies, from mass location during galactic collisions, and from the motion of galaxies within galaxy clusters. In the standard Lambda-CDM model of cosmology, the total mass–energy of the universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter and energy, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% of an unknown form of energy known as dark energy. Thus, dark matter constitutes 84.5%[note 2] of total mass, while dark energy plus dark matter constitute 95.1% of total mass–energy content.