Since it was first proposed in 1927, the Big Bang Theory has remained the leading explanation for how the universe began.
The theory suggests that the universe started as just a single point, which inflated and stretched over the next 13.8 billion years to become the still-expanding cosmos that we know today.
When NASA launched its James Webb Space Telescope into orbit in December, it was hoped that the $10 billion space telescope could help to unravel the mystery of what happened just after the Big Bang.
This week, claims have been spreading on social media that James Webb’s photos debunk the Big Bang theory and are inspiring ‘panic among cosmologists’.
However, these claims are simply not true, and are based on misconstrued quotes and data.
This week, claims have been spreading on social media that James Webb’s photos debunk the Big Bang theory and are inspiring ‘panic among cosmologists’. However, these claims are simply not true, and are based on misconstrued quotes and data
When NASA launched its James Webb Space Telescope into orbit in December, it was hoped that the $10 billion space telescope could help to unravel the mystery of what happened just after the Big Bang
The claims stem from an article published earlier this month on The Institute of Art and Ideas written by Eric Leaner – an avid disbeliever of the Big Bang Theory.
His article claims that the Big Bang didn’t happen, and cites photos taken by James Webb as evidence.
However, Leaner has misconstrued early data from James Webb to suggest that astronomers are worried the Big Bang Theory is incorrect.
Leaner references a paper which begins with ‘Panic!’ – which he refers to as a ‘candid exclamation.’
But reading the rest of the title, you’ll find that the use of ‘Panic!’ was followed by ‘At the Disks’ – a clever pun on the band Panic! At The Disco, rather than an exclamation of worry.
Meanwhile, Leaner also misuses a quote from Allison Kirkpatrick, an astronomer at the University of Kansas.
‘Right now I find myself lying awake at three in the morning, and wondering if everything I’ve done is wrong,’ he cites Kirkpatrick as saying.
This quote comes from a Nature news article published on July 27, but is not in direct reference to the Big Bang theory.
Instead, Kirkpatrick was speaking about the first data coming back from James Webb about the early evolution of the universe.
The Big Bang Theory is a cosmological model used to describe the beginning and the evolution of our universe, based on observations – including the cosmic background radiation (pictured), which is a like a fossil of radiation emitted during the beginning of the universe, when it was hot and dense
Kirkpatrick herself has repeatedly stated her quotes were misused in the article, and maintains she is a believer of the Big Bang Theory.
‘It’s wild. Especially because I’ve never said anything along those lines!’ she tweeted from her account, which she has renamed ‘Allison the Big Bang happened Kirkpatrick.’
One of the key reasons why the Big Bang is still the leading theory on our universe’s beginnings is because of cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the radiation leftover from the Big Bang.
Scientists have been able to ‘see’ this radiation with satellites, including NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer, which was in operation from 1989-1996.
While Lerner has proposed other explanations for CMB, these have all been disproven in the past.
James Webb is not designed to see the CMB, but instead to see a period of the universe’s history that has never been seen before.
In a Q&A, Dr John Mather, Nobel Laureate and James Webb Space Telescope Senior Project Scientist, explained: ‘Specifically we want to see the first objects that formed as the universe cooled down after the Big Bang.
‘That time period is perhaps hundreds of millions of years later than the one COBE [Cosmic Background Explorer], WMAP [Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe], and Planck were built to see.
‘We think that the tiny ripples of temperature they observed were the seeds that eventually grew into galaxies.
‘We don’t know exactly when the universe made the first stars and galaxies – or how for that matter. That is what we are building JWST to help answer.’