The Big Bang
The Big Bang

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

The Big Bang

7 The primordial nuclear abundances

7.1 Introduction

So far we have presented two pieces of evidence pointing to the occurrence of a big bang: the redshift of the galaxies (indicating the continuing expansion of the Universe), and the 3 K radiation (the remnant of the primordial radiation). But there is a third imprint such a big bang ought to have left on our present-day world. We cannot at this juncture trace out the full sequence of events following the instant of the big bang (that can only be done after we have worked through the next two courses). But regardless of the exact details of the sequence, any big bang scenario is likely to have passed through the stage referred to in Section 5.2 where there was a plasma of electrons, protons, and neutrons. As this cooled, nuclei (and later still, atoms) would have formed in certain proportions. Whatever these proportions were, they ought to be reflected in the relative abundances of the different elements we find in the present-day Universe. The idea therefore is to try and calculate the primordial nuclear abundances, and compare them with what exists now. If there is agreement, then that will be a third piece of evidence for our model of the big bang.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus