About 14 billion years ago, everything we know about began with the Big Bang. A common misconception, however, is to think of it as an explosion. The actual event didn’t explode into anything; space and time were created when the universe began.
The idea of it as an explosion also makes us think that everything started at some specific point, but this is not so.
The big bang happened everywhere. When astronomers say everywhere, they really mean everywhere; because there was no single point where it started, all distances in the universe were zero, so every point in the universe was effectively in the same place: everywhere.
Is there a center of the universe? The short answer is no. The longer answer is below.
The visible universe has a diameter of about 94 billion light years. This is all we can see. Considering this, we are in its center. After all, this is the visible universe.
What we see has two very important properties defined by cosmologists: it is isotropic and homogeneous. Isotropic means it looks the same in any direction you look in, while uniform means that at the largest scale it looks the same everywhere.
These facts inform us a little about the universe as a whole, which is much larger than the universe that we can see. We don’t yet know how much bigger or what the whole universe looks like, so our patch of the universe may be special or be a whole.
The simplest scenario to deal with is that the universe is infinite. Something infinite has no center. Now, our little monkey’s brain did not evolve to visualize the concept of infinity, but if something goes on forever, we can assume that there is no particular midpoint.
However, it is not a fact that the cosmos exists forever, it may well be finite. Our experience with the world tells us that if something has a finite size, then it has a center, such as a cube or a sphere.
Unfortunately, our experience does not extend to the universe as a whole, because the geometry with which we are most familiar is not the geometry of the finite universe. We have to deal with the concept of curvature, and again, our brains are not designed to deal with curvature in three dimensions.
All this suggests that the universe has no center. Our physics, as far as we can tell, operates in a four-dimensional space-time continuum. Looking at it with more dimensions, the curvature could mean a central position. But if it is, then it is not part of our universe, as we can understand it.
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