Does the universe have a center?
This is the question I get asked almost most often. Usually they ask something like:
Does the universe have a center? Where is it? What is there?
Many people think of the Big Bang as some kind of real explosion after which pieces of matter in the form of galaxies and clusters of galaxies began to fly in different directions from the Big Bang point and expect the location of this very Big Bang point to be the center of the universe.
This notion is wrong. It was not matter that began to fly around space, it was space itself that began to expand. The question “where?” makes no sense with respect to the Big Bang (the answer would be “everywhere”), one can only ask the question “when?” with respect to it. In fact, our entire Universe is a big bang point that expanded to unprecedented sizes.
If we look at the galaxies around us, we see that most of them are moving away from us, with the farther a galaxy is from us, the faster it is moving away from us. This can give the false impression that we are in the center from which everything is moving away. However, if we take any other galaxy as a reference point and “look”, from that point, we see exactly the same picture. This is because space is expanding everywhere in the universe.
The size of the observable universe (the part of the universe that we can in principle observe) does not give us any indication of its shape. The universe does not necessarily have a center, but it is not necessary that the center of the universe, if it has one, lies in our three dimensions. For example, if we take the surface of the Earth as a two-dimensional space, it is impossible to identify the center — it is in the third dimension!
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