Epochs of the Universe – Mission 05: Era of Nucleosynthesis

You are embarking on a journey through space and time itself. Back through time, you traverse the eras of the universe, closer and closer to the beginning of everything. Your voyage explores all stages, or epochs of the universe, from the start until this moment.

Plus, you have the only CosmoControl, to rewind, fast-forward, pause or resume space and time.

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Mission data
Mission briefing
What do you see?
Scientific explanations

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Epochs of the Universe Era of Nucleosynthesis Timeline


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Current Epoch: Era of Nucleosynthesis
Age of the Universe: 10,000th of a second – 3 minutes
Size of the Universe: ???
Current Temperature: 10 billion degrees F
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Mission Briefing

Presently, your universal mission resumes. Instantly, you begin as the Particle Era closes, in the Era of Nucleosynthesis. Currently, temperatures remain tragically hot. Plus, atoms’ nuclei remain hot enough for fusion. You eagerly observe, while fusion and nucleosynthesis play out in front of your eyes.

What do you see?

Previously, the Particle Era showed you an expanding, cooling young universe. Actually, our universe became the dark, vast realm we know today, right before your wondering eyes.

Currently, our new universe has lowered to around 10-billion degrees Fahrenheit. While far hotter than any organism could ever withstand, these conditions are frigid compared to the big bang!

However, despite its rapid, constant cooling, tightly packed nuclei inside the first, primordial atoms remain wildly hot. In fact, hot enough for nuclear fusion to power on!

Despite the cooling universe, you closely observe our universe continue to change in composition. Hydrogen continues to skyrocket, helium increases. In fact, you even see other elements like lithium begin appearing. Furthermore, we know this as nucleosynthesis, or, “nucleus combination.”

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75% Hydrogen

25% Helium

-1% Lithium and other trace elements


Suddenly, reviewing mission data, you see all nucleosynthesis stops abruptly at three minutes after the big bang. Now, the universe transforms into a large, dark and still place.

You wonder, if nucleosynthesis has halted, where would all of the future elements come from? After all, Earth alone has gold, aluminum, tin and hundreds of other elements! Eventually, maybe future epochs will reveal this answer?

Confused, you prepare to resume your mission, awaiting the Era of Nuclei.


What is really happening? Scientific explanation.

Still no light?

Unfortunately, during the Era of Nucleosynthesis, not a single speck of light has been born. Actually, the entire universe remains completely opaque.

Realistically, atomic nuclei remain so fiery hot, that electrons are unable to stick to them. Therefore, our universe is filled with freely-floating electrons, flying aimlessly through space. Unfortunately, they have no destination to hit. Simply put, no matter which direction they float, only more hot, dense space exists.

Nuclear fusion:

During the Era of Nucleosynthesis, hydrogen atoms, with single-proton nuclei smash together under great pressure. As a result, atoms are forced together, forging heavier elements, such as helium.

Yet, such fusion could only continue until three minutes after the big bang. At this time, atoms cooled enough for fusion to seize.

Composition of our universe:

Finally, we are left with a universe of similar composition to today. Predominantly hydrogen, helium and other trace elements, like lithium.

Ultimately, the current universal composition will eventually serve as the primary recipe for the first stars. Eventually, these premier stars will create a range of elements. In fact, they create all of the elements that create our lives and existence. The carbon making our bodies, the gold in our wedding rings, the nitrogen in our hair. Everything!

For more information about how our lives cam to be, check out Astronimate’s article: We’re Made of Star Stuff!

Mission Summary

Finally, our universe slowly transforms into a recognizable place. At last, nuclear fusion leaves a vast expanse of hydrogen and helium. In fact, these very ingredients are prime to create stars. But, where are they?

Unfortunately, even the amazing fusion and elemtary creation you’ve just witnessed still has not created light.

Hopeful, you hit the skip button on your CosmoControl, zipping toward the next epoch, the Era of Nuclei!


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