DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Universe time line. Computer artwork showing the universe's evolution from the Big Bang (bottom) to the present day (top). Space (including hypothetical non-observable portions of the Universe) is represented at each time by the circular sections. As the universe cooled immediately after the Big Bang atomic nuclei began to form. After 300,000 years these nuclei combined with electrons to form atoms (mainly hydrogen). Within a million years dense regions of atoms attracted nearby matter, forming gas clouds and, after about 400 million years, stars and then small galaxies. Gradually the galaxy formation rate decreased and the small galaxies merged into larger galaxies. Our solar system came into existence after about 9 billion years. It is presently 13.7.
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