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Big Bang to the Dawn of Life: A Brief History - Part I

English edit: Katyanne M. Shoemaker

Part I - Big Bang: the origin of atoms and explosion of stars

It is estimated that the number of species that inhabit the Earth currently exceeds 8.7 million. Not included in this calculation are the bacteria and archaea, which are microscopic prokaryotes. These microscopic organisms are single celled and devoid of a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. The number of species of these prokaryotic microorganisms, surprisingly, surpasses the estimated 8.7 million eukaryotic inhabitants of the planet  (eukaryotes have a more complex cellular structure with nuclei and membrane-bound organelles and encompass all animals, plants, fungi, protozoa, etc.). Such immense values make us reflect on how such incredible diversity may have arisen throughout the history of our planet and the Universe.

To begin to discuss this question, we need to go back 15 billion years ago, to a point where everything we now know was concentrated in one single point. Can you imagine this? All of the humans and all other organisms that have inhabited the Earth, all of the objects we have produce with our technology, all of the molecules that make up our planet, all of the atoms of the billions of stars that we have already detected in the Universe, all of the Cosmos, gathered in this singularity. And then, there was the biggest “explosion” of all time: the Big Bang.

Fourteen billion years ago: from the singularity

 to the greatest explosion of all time, the Big Bang. Font

The Universe expanded, cooled and darkened. The first atoms formed and their accumulation generated large clouds of cosmic dust that would give rise to the galaxies. Within the galaxies, the first generation of stars formed; within them, atoms fused, first of hydrogen, but then giving rise to heavier chemical elements. When the fuel was depleted, the stars exploded and released these elements, enriching the stellar gases.

A new generation of stars began recycling these elements, and even heavier atoms were formed. The accumulation of clouds filled with cosmic dust - the nebulae - gave rise to planetary systems, including our solar system. During the formation of planet Earth, approximately 4.5 billion years ago, organic molecules composed of carbon formed and created all of the ingredients essential for the development of life.

The origin of our solar system: the ingredients for the origin of life in a  cloud of stellar dust. Font

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