Our expanding universe: Age, history & other facts

The universe was born with the Big Bang as an unimaginably hot, dense point. When the universe was just 10-34 of a second or so old — that is, a hundredth of a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second in age — it experienced an incredible burst of expansion known as inflation, in which space itself expanded faster than the speed of light. During this period, the universe doubled in size at least 90 times, going from subatomic-sized to golf-ball-sized almost instantaneously.

The work that goes into understanding the expanding universe comes from a combination of theoretical physics and direct observations by astronomers. However, in some cases astronomers have not been able to see direct evidence — such as the case of gravitational waves associated with the cosmic microwave background, the leftover radiation from the Big Bang. A preliminary announcement about finding these waves in 2014 was quickly retracted, after astronomers found the signal detected could be explained by dust in the Milky Way.