The Universe

The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of existence, including planets,stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, the smallest subatomic particles, and all matter and energy. Similar terms include the cosmos, the world, reality, andnature.

The observable universe is about 46 billion light years in radius. Scientific observation of the Universe has led to inferences of its earlier stages. These observations suggest that the Universe has been governed by the same physical laws and constants throughout most of its extent and history. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that describes the early development of the Universe, which is calculated to have begun 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago. Observations of asupernovae have shown that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.

There are many competing theories about the ultimate fate of the universe. Physicists remain unsure about what, if anything, preceded the Big Bang. Many refuse to speculate, doubting that any information from any such prior state could ever be accessible. There are various multiverse hypotheses, in which some physicists have suggested that the Universe might be one among many universes that likewise exist.