As late as the 1970s, cosmology, the study of the universe as a whole, was a field filled with much speculation but few hard facts. New observations and theoretical work over the past two decades have changed that dramatically. Cosmology has become a rigorous, quantitative branch of astrophysics with a strong theoretical foundation backed by abundant data. The big bang model, which states that almost 14 billion years ago the universe started expanding from a state of extremely high density and temperature, is able to explain galaxy motions, the abundance of hydrogen and helium, and the properties of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the remnant heat from the expanding and cooling gas.
Cosmologists can now go to the next level and claim an understanding of the formation of structures in the universe. Measurements of the large-scale distribution of galaxies, as mapped by cartography projects such as the ongoing Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), are in beautiful agreement with theoretical predictions. We currently have a coherent model that tracks the growth of subtle density fluctuations laid down in the early universe to the present richness of the night sky.
This article was originally published with the title Reading the Blueprints of Creation.