# What is at the center of the universe?

• .ultimate

#### .ultimate

What is at the center of the universe? after the Big bang?

there is no centre, or you can say everything is at the centre.. Because the universe began in a single point, the whole universe and its centre where the same point, so now everything is at the centre of the universe.

This is also why no matter where in the universe you place yourself every thing seems to be moving away from you, like you were at the centre. Because of the expansion of the universe...

The venerable balloon analogy:

Imagine a colony of ants living on the surface of a balloon that is expanding contrinuously. Which ant is nearest the centre of the ballon's surface?

Every ant sees every other ant moving away from it. From its viewpoint, it is at the centre of the universe - the same as every other ant. They're ALL at the centre!

Hi Dave,

I believe Balloon and ant example is a poor analogy. In this analogy, ant would see only other ants moving away in two dimensional space. But in actual universe, you would see matter moving away in three dimensional. Actuall shape of the universe is always debated and clear picture is not yet available. Ant and balloon example would just confuse the readers more than helping them to visualize the shape of the universe.

Hi Maxwell,

No can say with 100% confidence that universe doesn't has a center. You could be right in saying that wherever you go, you would see matter moving away from you but this doesn't mean that there is no center to the universe.

If there is center, at some place, you would see matter moving away in all directions with the same velocity (dependent on distance) but
concentration of matter would be higher on one side.

If there is no center, all the galaxies would be attracted equally by the surrounding galaxies. So there won't be any net gravitational effect on any Galaxy on a large scale (Ignoring short distance ones like Andromeda). But still
most of the astronomers believe in a big crunch due to gravitational attaction provided the matter density in the universe is less than critical density and also Dark energy is said to be of overcoming gravity. So here we are clearly accepting gravity on large scales which is not possible if the universe doesn't has a center.

I am not saying that there is a center to a universe but still its not clear.

Thank You
Talksabcd (Talks Basics)

Last edited:
I believe Balloon and ant example is a poor analogy. In this analogy, ant would see only other ants moving away in two dimensional space. But in actual universe, you would see matter moving away in three dimensional.

Sure, the analogy is two dimensional, because we're used to curved two dimensional spaces. If you could already visualise curved three-or-four dimensional spaces, you wouldn't use the analogy. Main point is that the balloon's surface has no centre. And no reason why all the ant colonies couldn't exert attractive forces on each other (perhaps by running springs across the surface, with effects analogous to gravity), causing the entire space to recollapse, despite there still being no center of collapse (within the two-dimensional analogy).

What is at the center of the universe? after the Big bang?
The earth! We can't see that now, because, I believe, the universe is in a temporary state, so it is not now obvious.

There is no problem in using two dimensional analogy if the same could be applied to three dimensional but this analogy utterly fails when comes to three dimensional to prove that there is no center.

Please see my second paragraph in post #4

If there is no center, all the galaxies would be attracted equally by the surrounding galaxies. So there won't be any net gravitational effect on any Galaxy on a large scale (Ignoring short distance ones like Andromeda). But still
most of the astronomers believe in a big crunch due to gravitational attaction provided the matter density in the universe is less than critical density and also Dark energy is said to be of overcoming gravity. So here we are clearly accepting gravity on large scales which is not possible if the universe doesn't has a center.

I am not saying that there is a center to a universe but still its not clear.

Sorry but this is all wrong. The solution to the equations of general relativity describing a homogeneous, isotropic and infinite are perfectly happy with the current observations. You do not need to have a center of the universe that everything else is moving away from. There is no net gravitational force on anything in the universe, since in general relativity gravity is not a force. Instead all the matter in the universe follows geo-desic paths determined by solving the equations. The solutions tell us that everything moves apart even though the infinite universe is homogeneous.

It all boils down to initial conditions. The Big Bang caused everything to begin moving apart and hence they continue to do so. It is a common misconception that the Big Bang happened at a point. This is not the case. It happened everywhere. There is no one point you can trace all the matter in the universe back to if you run time backwards.

By the way, the Big Crunch is not thought by anyone to be a reasonable prediction of the universes future. It is not supported by the observations at present. Even if it was, it dosn't require a center of the Universe to exist in order to occur. A Big Crunch is NOT where all the material in the Universe moves to a single point. What it is is that density of the universe goes to infinity, but there can still be an infinite (or indeed finite) distance between points in the infinitely dense universe.

there is no centre, or you can say everything is at the centre.. Because the universe began in a single point, the whole universe and its centre where the same point, so now everything is at the centre of the universe.

This is also why no matter where in the universe you place yourself every thing seems to be moving away from you, like you were at the centre. Because of the expansion of the universe...

Does that mean that the Universe is constant? Does that mean while the outer shell is expanding ... the Universe is also contracting at the center?

Also, Isn't ther violation of conservation of mass during Big bang?

Does that mean that the Universe is constant? Does that mean while the outer shell is expanding ... the Universe is also contracting at the center?

Also, Isn't ther violation of conservation of mass during Big bang?

No, No and No are the answers I'm afraid.

The post you quote was almost correct although it also made the common mistake of thinking the Big Bang occurred at a single point.

The universe is homogeneous (on large enough scales) and hence is doing the same dance at all places at anyone time. So if the universe is expanding then the whole universe is doing so, if the universe is accelerating or decelerating then again it does so at all places at the same time. There is no inner or outer shell.

There is no violation of mass conservation in the Big Bang since conservation laws describe the constancy of something with time. Since time begins with the Big Bang there is nothing to compare with previously! Mass is conserved as the universe expands since the density decreases. If the universe doubles in volume then the density of mass halves.

Sorry but this is all wrong. The solution to the equations of general relativity describing a homogeneous, isotropic and infinite are perfectly happy with the current observations. You do not need to have a center of the universe that everything else is moving away from. There is no net gravitational force on anything in the universe, since in general relativity gravity is not a force. Instead all the matter in the universe follows geo-desic paths determined by solving the equations. The solutions tell us that everything moves apart even though the infinite universe is homogeneous.

It all boils down to initial conditions. The Big Bang caused everything to begin moving apart and hence they continue to do so. It is a common misconception that the Big Bang happened at a point. This is not the case. It happened everywhere. There is no one point you can trace all the matter in the universe back to if you run time backwards.

By the way, the Big Crunch is not thought by anyone to be a reasonable prediction of the universes future. It is not supported by the observations at present. Even if it was, it dosn't require a center of the Universe to exist in order to occur. A Big Crunch is NOT where all the material in the Universe moves to a single point. What it is is that density of the universe goes to infinity, but there can still be an infinite (or indeed finite) distance between points in the infinitely dense universe.

I wouldn't argue with general theory of relativity. Here you are considering universe as infinite. So many things are possible under infinite universe. If the universe is infinite, no one would dare to say that there is a center to the universe. But how can anyone be so sure that universe is infinite ? and not finite ?. Is there any sound practical evidence that universe is infinite ? Infinite universe would also mean infinite energy which is beyond my grasp. Please explain.

You are saying that Big Bang happened everywhere. How can this be ?
Can you give brief explanation or direct me to some link ? I never heard of this..

You are saying that under big crunch, density of the universe goes to infinity.
We know that there is nothing higher than infinity. How one can measure distances in an infinitely dense universe ? Please explain. Infinite density means zero volume. How can one measure distances in zero volume ? Are you talking about extra dimensions ?

I wouldn't argue with general theory of relativity. Here you are considering universe as infinite. So many things are possible under infinite universe. If the universe is infinite, no one would dare to say that there is a center to the universe. But how can anyone be so sure that universe is infinite ? and not finite ?. Is there any sound practical evidence that universe is infinite ? Infinite universe would also mean infinite energy which is beyond my grasp. Please explain.

It is true that we cannot be certain that the universe is infinite given that we only observe a finite portion. However even if somehow, in violation of present theories (the solutions of GR we use to model the universe require it to be infinite), the universe is finite there is nothing that make the center of the finite blob special. It just happens to be the center.

You are saying that Big Bang happened everywhere. How can this be ?
Can you give brief explanation or direct me to some link ? I never heard of this..

A quick google search found http://www.astronomycafe.net/cosm/bang.html" [Broken] which might be helpful. Read these and post any questions you still have.

You are saying that under big crunch, density of the universe goes to infinity.
We know that there is nothing higher than infinity. How one can measure distances in an infinitely dense universe ? Please explain.

I'm not sure what any of this question means. See below, I hope that clear up the confusion.

Infinite density means zero volume.

This is only true assuming a finite mass, since the mass of the universe is infinite it can be infinitely large as well as being infinitely dense.

How can one measure distances in zero volume ? Are you talking about extra dimensions ?

See above, the Big Bang is NOT a point of zero volume. It is a singularity so discussion of volume is meaningless.

Last edited by a moderator:
There is nothing that we have observed that suggests the Earth is the center of the Universe. There is no theory that requires this to be true to explain something else. If you have any evidence for this not being the case please share it with us all!

[sorry Wallace - I'm trying to clean this up... -Russ]

Last edited by a moderator:
Whats at the center, well, first answer whether universe in restricted to some expanse or not ? The point of bigbang needn't be the center (how do we know if the explosion was symmetrical in all dimensions)

PS: Sorry if this sounds unconvincing,i am a novice in this field. I am just sharing my views.

So many things are possible under infinite universe. If the universe is infinite, no one would dare to say that there is a center to the universe. But how can anyone be so sure that universe is infinite ? and not finite ?.
Those questions are irrelevant, since the universe does not need to be spatially infinite to lack a center. That's one of the things that the balloon analogy tells us.

Whats at the center, well, first answer whether universe in restricted to some expanse or not ? The point of bigbang needn't be the center (how do we know if the explosion was symmetrical in all dimensions)

PS: Sorry if this sounds unconvincing,i am a novice in this field. I am just sharing my views.
The Big Bang was not an explosion and the universe looks pretty much the same in every direction.

Last edited:
Those questions are irrelevant, since the universe does not need to be spatially infinite to lack a center. That's one of the things that the balloon analogy tells us.

Could you please explain how a three dimensional universe could be finite but still has no center ?
I can easily visualize two dimensional finite space with no center using
ant and balloon analogy but it helped me nothing in visualizing a three dimensional finite space with no center.

Visualizing it isn't really possible because our eyes (and thus our brains) are limited to seeing in 3 dimensions, but in 1 dimension (the edge of a circle), the perimeter has no center, but finite length and is curved in a second dimension. In two dimensions (the surface of a sphere), the surface has no center, but a finite area and is curved over a third dimension. In three dimensions, then, the space would have no center but finite volume and there must be a curvature in higher dimensions. The three concepts are the same.

You can't visualize why/how, but if you fly far enough in one direction, you'll end up back where you started, just like if you were flying around the earth.

Wallace said:
"It is a common misconception that the Big Bang happened at a point. This is not the case. It happened everywhere. There is no one point you can trace all the matter in the universe back to if you run time backwards."

Wallace that is exactly the same as I said. (What I meant at least).

Talksabcd said:
"You are saying that Big Bang happened everywhere. How can this be ?
Can you give brief explanation or direct me to some link ? I never heard of this.."

I did, it was my first post:
If you imagine universe not starting in a single point, but being a single point (singularity I guess?). Then the universe and its centre would be the same thing, right? Therefore the centre of the universe is everywhere.

There is another analogy than the balloon-analogy. If you imagine a bun with rosins, and the rosins being galaxies. Then if you are standing on any rosin while the bun is rising, everything will seem to move away from you in three dimensions..

Visualizing it isn't really possible because our eyes (and thus our brains) are limited to seeing in 3 dimensions, but in 1 dimension (the edge of a circle), the perimeter has no center, but finite length and is curved in a second dimension. In two dimensions (the surface of a sphere), the surface has no center, but a finite area and is curved over a third dimension. In three dimensions, then, the space would have no center but finite volume and there must be a curvature in higher dimensions. The three concepts are the same.

You can't visualize why/how, but if you fly far enough in one direction, you'll end up back where you started, just like if you were flying around the earth.

All the above looks fine but is there any evidence for fourth dimension which is beyond human perception ?
How can you be so sure that if someone travels in some direction in the universe would reach the same starting point ?
Definitely no one will be able to verify this.

Mathematics allows any no of dimensions to play with but this doesn't mean that they really exist unless one shows a solid evidence.

Not sure why people always want a centerless universe and to support this we need unprovable things like Infinite universe and extra dimensions.

I'm not exactly a PF Mentor, but I do unofficially, and to the best knowledge of russ, do somewhat work with him on questions like these:

All the above looks fine but is there any evidence for fourth dimension which is beyond human perception ?

Yup... Math, and reasoning.

How can you be so sure that if someone travels in some direction in the universe would reach the same starting point ?

Imagine you are on a sphere, and you move in 2d. Eventually, you will move around the sphere, and come back to where you were.

Now, if you moved in 3 dimensions, and if your sphere became a hypersphere (A 4d "Sphere"), the same analogy would apply.

^^^ Russ explained this one better than I could, but I'm just toning it down.

I'm an engineer, so when it comes to the math of physics issues like this, I get a little thin, but the math is General Relativity. Explaining why photons seem to curve around massive objects, for example (they don't - space does).

If there was a center of the universe, then we would find the cosmic background radiation stronger in one direction than another. This is not the case. While NASA's COBE satelite found variations, that is believed to be the beginning of the first structures in the universe, it found the background radiation to be the same in all directions.

The phrase "BIG BANG" leads one to think of the expansion of the universe as an explosion. This is incorrect. An analogy I use is to consider the universe as a loaf of raisinbread expanding as it cooks. The raisins being the galaxies. An observer on one raisin sees all the other raisins moving away. While an observer on a distant raisin sees the same thing. This analogy is 3 dimensional and the universe is expanding in 4 dimensions. This is why it is so difficult for our minds to comprehend.

Some people confuse the "local observable area" of the universe, with the entire thing (As I did until recently). This makes the Earth appear as the center.

Those questions are irrelevant, since the universe does not need to be spatially infinite to lack a center. That's one of the things that the balloon analogy tells us.

just out of curiosity:

The surface of the balloon is a closed surface and it encloses a volume that does have a center.

Can this analogy carry on to the universe, in that our volume encloses a fourth-dimension (spacetime?) that does have a center?

Our space-time manifold is already four dimensional. It can be embedded in a single space of some higher dimensionality, but this fact is usually regarded as mathematical trivia rather than something physically meaningfull.

Our space-time manifold is already four dimensional. It can be embedded in a single space of some higher dimensionality, but this fact is usually regarded as mathematical trivia rather than something physically meaningfull.

couldn't a center be mathematically calculated extrapolating on calculating the center of a volume based on the surface area? I guess we probably don't know the "surface area" or whether it's closed or not though...

Some people confuse the "local observable area" of the universe, with the entire thing (As I did until recently). This makes the Earth appear as the center.

No, it makes every spot in the visible universe appear as the center.. And because the center is everywhere (or nowhere considering how you think of it) the background radiation will be the same in all directions, which it is...

nobody seems to understand this philosophical understanding of the universe

Talksabcd,
The evidence for a 4th dimension is gravity and time dialation(though there may be more to it that we are unable to observe.

Maxwells Demon,
I'm sorry the last part of my post was so vague. We are in agreement. My point was that an observer on Earth sees everything moving away from him and if he disregards the background radiation, the fact that space and time began with the "Big Bang", and the observations from other places, it would be natural for him to think that he was in the center. Even though this is incorrect.

Wilgory:

Good, we perfectly agree :)

The Big Bang was not an explosion and the universe looks pretty much the same in every direction.

It wasn't an explosion, it did even give a big bang, it was soundless, because there was no air to make sound waves in.. I just realized this the other day

The BIG BANG was silent :(

Talksabcd,
The evidence for a 4th dimension is gravity and time dialation(though there may be more to it that we are unable to observe.

Maxwells Demon,
I'm sorry the last part of my post was so vague. We are in agreement. My point was that an observer on Earth sees everything moving away from him and if he disregards the background radiation, the fact that space and time began with the "Big Bang", and the observations from other places, it would be natural for him to think that he was in the center. Even though this is incorrect.

We are not talking abt Time as fouth dimension but abt spatial fourth dimension. Is there any evidence for a spatial fouth dimension ?

If there was a center of the universe, then we would find the cosmic background radiation stronger in one direction than another. This is not the case. While NASA's COBE satelite found variations, that is believed to be the beginning of the first structures in the universe, it found the background radiation to be the same in all directions.

The phrase "BIG BANG" leads one to think of the expansion of the universe as an explosion. This is incorrect. An analogy I use is to consider the universe as a loaf of raisinbread expanding as it cooks. The raisins being the galaxies. An observer on one raisin sees all the other raisins moving away. While an observer on a distant raisin sees the same thing. This analogy is 3 dimensional and the universe is expanding in 4 dimensions. This is why it is so difficult for our minds to comprehend.

Some people confuse the "local observable area" of the universe, with the entire thing (As I did until recently). This makes the Earth appear as the center.

If the cosmic background is same in all directions then it doesn't mean that
there is no center to the universe. We see the cosmic background from the
point of last scaterring. If the point of last scaterring is within the finite universe then we should see homogenous cosmic background in all directions irrespective of whether there is a center to the universe or not.

Why is that? If the universe had a center, wouldn't the point of last scattering appear as a spherical shell in one direction instead of being everywhere?

If the cosmic background is same in all directions then it doesn't mean that
there is no center to the universe. We see the cosmic background from the
point of last scaterring. If the point of last scaterring is within the finite universe then we should see homogenous cosmic background in all directions irrespective of whether there is a center to the universe or not.

I'm not sure what you're talking about? Is there something you don't understand or? Is there something I don't? If so, could someone explain to me what he's trying to say?

We are not talking abt Time as fouth dimension but abt spatial fourth dimension. Is there any evidence for a spatial fouth dimension ?

Pardon me Talks,

I was talking about time as the 4th dimension. As I understand it, General Relativity also uses time as the 4th dimension. What theory are you using to form your opinion? I tend to go with GR since it has passed many test and as far as I know works perfectly well as far as cosmology is concerned. If you go to Wikipedia you'll find Introduction to Special Relativity and Introduction to General Relativity. I found them both helpful in explaining how current understanding of the four dimensional universe was achieved.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_special_relativity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_general_relativity