Spiral Galaxy

The Scale of the Universe (Time)

This is an easy-to-understand scale of the Universe.
Time is explained by condensing the life of the Universe into a single year.

The Past

This table shows a number of events in the history of the Universe and the Earth. This is expressed as occurring during a calendar year (the so-called Cosmic Year).

The Cosmic Year is assumed to be equivalent to 13,798,000,000 real years (which is the current figure for the age of the Universe plus or minus 37 million years).

With this scale 1 day in the Cosmic Year represents 37,800,000 years (roughly the uncertainty in the age of the Universe).

1 hour of the Cosmic Year is equivalent to 1,580,000 years.

1 second of the Cosmic Year is worth approximately 438 real years on this scale.

Event Calendar Date and Time
Big Bang - The Universe Begins
The Big Bang occurs 1 January at Midnight
Stable Atoms
Stable atoms form 1 January at 00:24:31
We can detect the radiation from this event
Stars and Galaxies
First stars and galaxies form (including our Galaxy, the Milky Way) around 15 March
The Sun
Formation of the Sun 31 August
For the first TWO THIRDS of the Univese neither the Sun or Earth existed
The Earth
Formation of the Earth 3 September
The Moon
Formation of the Moon 4 September
The Earth's Atmosphere
Formation of the Earth's atmosphere 11 September
Oldest Earth rocks 20 September
Earliest evidence of life on Earth 21 September
Oldest known fossils (single celled organisms) 7 October
Formation of stable continents
Beginning of photosynthesis
12 October
Shallow Seas
Formation of extensive shallow seas 28 October
Oxygen (Blue Sky)
Oxygen in Earth's atmosphere as a by-product of photosynthesis
This killed off most organisms as it was poisonous to them
Other organisms evolved to use oxygen
29 October
Development of complex cells (eukaryotes) 9 November
Multi-cellular life develops
Sexual reproduction develops
This speeded up genetic exchange and hence evolution
5 December
Worldwide glaciation freezes Earth 7 December
This is a planet wide effect and not the recent ice ages in the Northern Hemisphere
End of Glaciation
Worldwide glaciation ends 13 December
Multi-cellular Life
First animals 14 December
Shellfish on Corals
First shellfish and corals
Ozone in upper atmosphere reduces ultraviolet radiation
19 December
A Tiger Shark
First vertebrates (fishes) 20 December
Plants on Land
First land plants 21 December
First insects early 22 December
Plants with Seeds
First terapods (fish-like amphibians) and seed bearing plants late 22 December
First reptiles 23 December 5:26pm
Rubidgea - a Mammal-like Reptile First mammal-like reptiles 24 December 4:48pm
First dinosaurs 26 December 6:26pm
Marsupials - Pouched Mammals
First mammals (egg-layers and marsupials) 26 December 9:21pm
First birds 28 December 8:24am
First flowering plants 28 December 5:10pm
Placental Mammal
First placental mammals 29 December 1:36pm
This is the class of animals that includes humans
Extinction of the Dinosaurs
Extinction of the dinosaurs 30 December 10:02am
Lemurs - Early Primates
First primates 30 December 4:27pm
We are now in the final day of the Cosmic Year
First monkeys 31 December 0:38am
First apes 31 December 6:05am
Hominid Skull
First hominids 31 December 2:24pm
Hominid Skull
First primitive humans
First use of stone tools
31 December 10:24pm
Homo Habilis
First use of fire 31 December 11:44pm
Homo Sapiens - Modern Humans
Homo Sapiens (modern humans) develop in Africa 31 December 11:52pm
Modern human beings appear in the final 8 minutes of the Cosmic Year
Homo Sapiens begins to colonise the world replacing other hominids 31 December 11:58pm
Human beings leave Africa, their continent of origin, in the final 2 minutes of the Cosmic Year
Ice Age
Last ice age (maximum extent)
Humans migrate to the Americas
31 December 11:59:14pm
Cuniform Writing from Mesopotamia
Ancient Mesopotamia
Domestication of plants and animals
Permanent settlements
Invention of writing
31 December 11:59:41pm
All written human history occurs in the final 19 seconds of the Cosmic Year
Pyramid of Khufu (Egypt)
Ancient Egypt
Indus Valley
31 December 11:59:50pm
Chinese Pagoda in Lijiang
Ancient China
31 December 11:59:53.3pm
Buddhist Statue (Thailand)
Ancient Greece
Nazca Civilisation
31 December 11:59:54.7pm
Roman Collosseum
Roman Empire
Moche Civilisation
31 December 11:59:55.8pm
The year 1 (CE) of the Western (Gregorian Calendar) is 4.2 seconds from the end of the Cosmic Year
Mayan Temple at Palenque (Mexico)
Mayan Civilisation
31 December 11:59:57.0pm
Moorish Gate (Alhambra Palace)
Islamic and Moorish Empires
Kublai Khan
31 December 11:59:58.4pm
Ottoman Empire
Europeans in the Americas
Europeans in Australia
31 December 11:59:59.2pm
Major continents explored in the final 0.8 seconds of the Cosmic Year
USA Flag
French Revolution
USA Independence
31 December 11:59:59.5pm
Albert Einsten
World War I
Albert Einstein
Edwin Hubble
Soviet Union
31 December 11:59:59.8pm
Flag of the European Union
European Union
Space flight
31 December 11:59:59.90pm
Exploration of the Universe outside the Earth begins in the final 0.1 seconds of the Cosmic Year.
Year 2000 Celebrations in Paris
Year 2000 (Gregorian Calendar) 31 December 11:59:59.97pm
Whales, the largest animals alive
Present 31 December at Midnight

The Future

This table shows a number of events in the future history of the Universe and the Earth. This time scale is based on the calendar year (Cosmic Year) representing the time from the Big Bang to the Present as used in the listing above.

By definition, we are currently at the end of the first Cosmic Year.

Length of Day increases by 1 second 1 January at 00:01:45
Constellations no longer recognisable 1 January at 00:03:30
East Africa splits off after Great Rift Valley flooded 1 January at 05:50
Mediterranean Sea closes
Gregorian Calendar has Northern Hemisphere Summer in late December
2 January at 04:12
The Sun (and Earth) will have completed an orbit around the Galactic centre 6 January
The Moon will be too far from the Earth to cause a Total Eclipse of the Sun 14 January
Because of increase in Sun's luminosity, plate tectonics slows and stops
This lowers atmospheric carbon dioxide to the point where photosynthesis stops
Most higher plants die
14 January
Atmospheric carbon dioxide falls to a level that kills all multi-cellular life 19 January
The Sun's luminosity increases by 10%
A wet green house effect causes the evaporation of the Earth's oceans
24 January
All non-bacteriological life extinct 1 February
Earth's liquid core solidifies shutting down the magnetic field 25 February
Earth's surface temperature reaches 147 degrees (C) killing all life 9 March
The Moon's distance from the Earth has increased to the point where the Earth's axial tilt becomes chaotic 14 March
Earth's surface conditions comparable to Venus in the current era 26 March
Andromeda Galaxy collides with our Galaxy - no effect on the Earth 7 April
Sun begins to expand into a Red Giant star becoming hundreds of times more luminous 11 May
Sun reaches its maximum size as a Red Giant and swallows the Earth 11 July
Sun becomes a tiny White Dwarf star after shedding much of its mass 13 July
Sun cools to the point where it is no longer emitting light 16 December
The expansion of the Universe places all galaxies outside the Local Group beyond observation 6 years 7 months
The 47 galaxies of the Local Group coalesce into one large galaxy 30 years
Star formation ends as galactic gas depleted 650 years
All stars are non-energy producing remnants 8000 years
The Sun will have cooled to 5 degrees above Absolute Zero 65000 years

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In astronomy distances are confusing because of the large numbers of zeros in the figures. This is an easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in space. Distances in space are represented by the time light takes to travel there.

How humanity came from Creation Myths to the Inflationary Big Bang. The key stages in our understanding of our place in the cosmos and the people behind them.

This looks at the history of inventions and the various civilisations of the world.

External Link

This link will open in a separate window

Secret Worlds: The Universe Within
A series of images from outside the Galaxy to the quarks within the nucleaus of an atom.

Sizes of Planets and Stars
Scale models of the planets, Sun and stars.