Harvard shield Harvard University Department of Astronomy
[red bar] [CfA Home]  [CfA Search]  [CfA Help]
[HU AST navigation bar] [HU AST Home]  [HU AST Search]  [HU AST Contact]

The Cosmological Constant
History of the Universe


Basic Idea: The universe is expanding and cooling. Different physical processes and components dominate at different temperatures and densities. The growth of horizons means larger scale structures form later. Looking at large distances means looking back in time.

General Features of Universe

  • homogeneous and isotropic on large scales
  • Olber's paradox: expanding universe, not at a special place
  • Structure in the universe is evolving (was not always there, combined with finite speed of light gives another resolution)


Going Forward in time:

  • general evolutionary features
    • cooling/diluting due to expansion
    • structure growing due to gravitational attraction
  • short history
    • initial conditions (inflation)
    • baryogenesis
    • bbn (first 3 minutes)
    • matter-radiation equality
    • cmb (300,000 years)
    • dark ages
    • first structures
      their age, fraction of age of universe, in years
    • peak of star formation and quasar activity
    • today and recently

Observations are stronger starting at the time of bbn and since.
Systems which are simplest: the CMB (where calculations are under control) and those dominated by dark matter (which only use gravity). Both of these will be used later as indirect indications of the cosmological constant.

Short statement of paradigm by M. Rees

Some references.


Home vertical line Syllabus vertical line References vertical line Lecture References vertical line Useful Links vertical line Contact Info

Back to Harvard University Department of Astronomy Academics.
Back to Harvard University Department of Astronomy Courses.

Comments or Questions? Contact jcohn@astron.berkeley.edu