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The Age of the Universe

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 03 March 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the age of the Universe.

Since the 18th century, when scientists first realised that the Universe had existed for more than a few thousand years, cosmologists have debated its likely age. The discovery that the Universe was expanding allowed the first informed estimates of its age to be made by the great astronomer Edwin Hubble in the early decades of the twentieth century. Hubble's estimate of the rate at which the Universe is expanding, the so-called Hubble Constant, has been progressively improved.

Today cosmologists have a variety of other methods for ageing the Universe, most recently the detailed measurements of cosmic microwave background radiation - the afterglow of the Big Bang - made in the last decade. And all these methods seem to agree on one thing: the Universe has existed for around 13.75 billion years.

With:

Martin Rees
Astronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge

Carolin Crawford
Member of the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge

Carlos Frenk
Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    John Gribbin, ‘The Birth of Time: How We Measured the Age of the Universe’ (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999)

    Martin Rees, ‘Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe’ (Phoenix; New Ed edition, 2000)

    Simon Singh, ‘Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need to Know About It’ (Harper Perennial, 2005)

    Brian Greene, ‘The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality’ (Knopf, 2004)

    Michael Rowan-Robinson, ‘The Nine Numbers of the Cosmos’ (Oxford University Press, 1999)

    Robert Kirshner, ‘The Extravagant Universe’ (Princeton University Press, 2004)

    Mario Livio, ‘The Accelerating Universe’ (Wiley, 2000)

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