Timeline of the universe

Using observatories on the earth and in space, astronomers have been able to study the nature of the cosmos in unprecedented detail. By analysing the motion of distant galaxies, they have discovered that the whole cosmos is expanding under the influence of forces unleashed at its birth in the big bang. Combined with studies of the radiation left over from that primordial explosion, they have found that the universe was born 13.7bn years ago, give or take 200m years.

Pinning down the date of creation with such precision is impressive, but scientists have gone much further. They have begun to piece together the whole history of the universe, from the big bang to the present day. The very earliest moments are still the focus of intense research, and the final word is not yet in. Even so, the timeline of events now emerging is every bit as astounding as the creation myths of the world's religions.