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Timeline of the Big Bang

According to the Big Bang theory, the following sequence of events is
believed to have occurred. The starting point for this timeline, 13.7  0.2
billion years ago, is the time at which in general relativity there exists a
gravitational singularity. At this time, general relativity is unable to
make statements about what the universe is like because the theory gives
infinite values for the temperature and density of the universe.

It is believed that general relativity is insufficient to make predictions
about the very beginning of the universe and that a theory of quantum
gravity will be needed to do so. Nevertheless the time at which general
relativity predicts a singularity makes a convenient starting point to begin
the timeline, despite the fact that this singularity may or may not actually
have existed.

One concept which is important to understand this table is the concept of
decoupling or freezeout. Imagine a block of ice and an aluminum coke can. If
you increase the temperature to an extremely high value, then both objects
well vaporize and one will have a mixture of water and aluminum vapor which
can be considered a single entity. Now if one decreases the temperature,
then below a certain value the aluminium will condense and freeze and stop
interacting with the water vapor. The exact temperature at which this occurs
can be estimated.

A similar process occurs during the course of the big bang as entities
freeze out and decouple from the rest of the soup that makes up the
universe. The temperature at which freezeout occurs can be estimated and the
temperature corresponds to the time after the big bang.

One final note is that this timeline will refer to the diameter of the
universe. This is not the total size of the universe, which may be infinite.
Rather one starts with the current size of the observable universe which is
about thirteen billion light years because thirteen billion years is the
estimated length of time since the beginning of the universe and anything
outside that sphere cannot be observed. One then calculates how large that
sphere is at a particular time.

Stephen Hawking has theorized that the events of the Big Bang (the expansion
of a singularity into the current space-time continuum) can be seen as a
reversal of the events that occur in a black hole, where space-time
condenses into a singularity.

10-43 seconds

     The instant of 10-43 seconds is known as Planck time. Start of the
     Grand Unification Epoch. After this time, gravity can be treated as a
     separate force from the other three forces, which become the
     electronuclear force, which is important because it is unknown how to
     combine gravity with the other forces. At the moment of Planck time,
     the temperature of the universe is estimated to be 1032 Kelvin. The
     diameter of the currently observable universe is theorized as 10-33

10-36 seconds

     Separation of the strong force from the electronuclear force, leaving
     three forces: gravity, strong, and electroweak forces. The particles
     which are involved in the strong force are considerably more massive
     than the particles which are involved with the other forces and so are
     believed to "condense" out earlier.

     This period is also very important for the existence of matter in the
     universe. Individually, the strong and the electroweak forces behave
     exactly the same way toward matter and antimatter. Which means that
     there is no opportunity after this time for more matter to be created
     than antimatter. Grand unification theories suggest that when the
     strong and the electroweak forces are mixed and act as a single force
     which is the case at this period, that it may be possible to have
     particle reactions which create more matter than antimatter.

10-35 seconds

     Beginning of the Inflationary Epoch: For the period of time between
     10-35 seconds and 10-33 seconds, it is believed that the size of the
     universe expands by a factor of approximately 1020 to 1030. Postulating
     the existence of inflation solves a number of problems which are
     described in cosmic inflation.

10-33 seconds

     The temperature of the Universe is approximately 1025 K.
     Quark-Antiquark Epoch begins and lasts until 10-5 seconds. At these
     temperatures, quarks are able to condense out but the temperatures are
     still too hot for protons and neutrons to exist.

     Birth of quarks, which appear in particle-antiparticle pairs. Quarks
     and anti-quarks annihilate each other to create photons, but quarks are
     created at a ratio of approximately 109 (1 billion) anti-quarks to
     109+1 (1,000,000,001) quarks, resulting in one quark per billion
     successfully created. Free quarks multiply rapidly.

10-12 seconds

     The temperature of the Universe is approximately 1015 K. The diameter
     of the currently observable universe increases to approximately 1013
     meters. The weak force which involves a massive particle condenses and
     separates from the electromagnetic force which involves a massless
     particle, leaving us with the four separate forces we know today.

10-6 seconds

     Electrons and positrons annihilate each other during the hadron era.

10-5 seconds

     The temperature of the Universe is approximately 1013 K. Quarks combine
     to form protons and neutrons. The lowering temperature allows
     quark/anti-quark pairs to combine into mesons. After this period quarks
     and anti-quarks can no longer exist as free particles.

.0001 (10-4) seconds

     The temperature of the Universe is approximately 10 million (1010)
     Kelvin. The existence of antimatter is cancelled out, as
     lepton/anti-lepton pairs are annihilated by existing photons. Neutrinos
     break free and exist on their own.

1 second after the Big Bang

     Formation of hydrogen nuclei, the first atomic nuclei. Nuclear fusion
     begin to occur as the universe is cool enough for atomic nuclei to
     occur while still hot enough for them to collide to form heavier

3 minutes after the Big Bang

     Nuclear reactions stop. After this point, the universe is too cool for
     nuclear reactions to occur. At this point the universe consists of
     about 80% hydrogen, 20% helium and trace amounts of deuterium and
     lithium. Elements heavier than lithium do not have time to form before
     nuclear reactions stop. By looking at conditions between 1 second and 3
     minutes after the big bang, one can predict the elemental abundance of
     the universe which are broadly in agreement with observations.

300,000 years after the Big Bang

     The temperature of the Universe is approximately 10,000 Kelvin. At this
     temperature hydrogen nuclei capture electrons to form stable atoms.
     This is particularly significant because free electrons are effective
     at scattering light, which is why fire is not transparent, while
     hydrogen atoms will allow light to pass through.

     This implies that this is the time at which space becomes transparent
     to light, and this is the farthest that one can see. This also means
     that photons no longer interact strongly with atoms which means that
     what we normally think of as matter and what we normally think of as
     energy become separate.

     The light from the moment at which the universe became transparent has
     been redshifted to radio waves and makes up the cosmic microwave
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