KABOOM! That sound could have been the universe as we know it coming to life in an instant, according to one predominant scientific theory, The Big Bang. The Big Bang theory says that the universe began as a tiny, extremely compacted ball of mass that contained everything in the universe. More than 13.7 billion years ago, that ball of mass exploded and unleashed the incredible and infinite powers of our universe: galaxies, dark matter, invisible mass, planets, stars and much more. The theory, championed by scientists Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias more than 50 years ago, noted the presence of cosmic microwave background—a type of cosmic fog—that allowed them to explore a region of the universe they'd not yet encountered—and it went pretty far back. From what we know today, our universe continues to expand at an increasingly fast rate. One theory called eternal inflation suggests that we are in fact part of a multiverse—the mind-blowing idea that there is more than one universe.
From what we now know, our time to gather evidence on the origins, function and nature of the universe is both crucial and fleeting. Because of the universe's rapid expansion, it will eventually become impossible to peer over into other galaxies beyond our own Milky Way—that means the time to study infinity and beyond is now. Put on your lab jacket and take notes as experts and researchers delve into their theories on the origins of the universe, and where we're headed next.