The Big Bang is the cosmological model of the universe that is best supported by all lines of scientific evidence and observation. As used by scientists, the term Big Bang generally refers to the idea that the universe has expanded from a primordial hot and dense initial condition at some finite time in the past, and continues to expand to this day. Georges Lemaître proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, although he called it his 'hypothesis of the primeval atom'. The framework for the model relies on Albert Einstein's General Relativity as formulated by Alexander Friedmann. After Edwin Hubble discovered in 1929 that the distances to far away galaxies were generally proportional to their redshifts, this observation was taken to indicate that all very distant galaxies and clusters have an apparent velocity directly away from our vantage point. The farther away, the higher the apparent velocity. If the distance between galaxy clusters is increasing today, everything must have been closer together in the past. This idea has been considered in detail back in time to extreme densities and temperatures, and large particle accelerators have been built to experiment on and test such conditions, resulting in significant confirmation of the theory, but these accelerators have limited capabilities to probe into such high energy regimes. Without any evidence associated with the earliest instant of the expansion, the Big Bang theory cannot and does not provide any explanation for such an initial condition; rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the universe since that instant. The observed abundances of the light elements throughout the cosmos closely match the calculated predictions for the formation of these elements from nuclear processes in the rapidly expanding and cooling first minutes of the universe, as logically and quantitatively detailed according to Big Bang nucleosynthesis.
Fred Hoyle is credited with coining the phrase 'Big Bang' during a 1949 radio broadcast, as a derisive reference to a theory he did not subscribe to. Hoyle later helped considerably in the effort to figure out the nuclear pathway for building certain heavier elements from lighter ones. After the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964, and especially when its collective frequencies sketched out a blackbody curve, most scientists were fairly convinced by the evidence that some Big Bang scenario must have occurred.
Observations suggest that the universe as we know it began around 13.7 billion years ago. Since then, the evolution of the universe has passed through three phases. The very early universe, which is still poorly understood, was the split second in which the universe was so hot that particles had energies higher than those currently accessible in particle accelerators on Earth. Therefore, while the basic features of this epoch have been worked out in the big bang theory, the details are largely based on educated guesses.
Following this period, in the early universe, the evolution of the universe proceeded according to known high energy physics. This is when the first protons, electrons and neutrons formed, then nuclei and finally atoms. With the formation of neutral hydrogen, the cosmic microwave background was emitted. Then matter started to aggregate into the first stars and ultimately galaxies, quasars, clusters of galaxies and superclusters formed. There are several alternative theories about the ultimate fate of the universe.
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