We think that life came from non-life, from the increasing complexity of chemical reactions between biomolecules present on the primordial Earth. But what about the universe? How did it come to be if there was nothing before? iStockphoto hide caption

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Part of the ALMA array on the Chajnantor plateau of Chile points skyward to the Milky Way, our own galaxy. The center of our galaxy is visible as a yellowish bulge crossed by dark lanes, which are themselves huge clouds of interstellar dust. José Francisco Salgado/ESO hide caption

itoggle caption José Francisco Salgado/ESO

The hunt for dark matter started with astronomer Fritz Zwicky's observations of the Coma galaxy cluster in the 1930s. This recent image of the Coma cluster combines optical and X-ray observations from the Chandra mission. J.Sanders et al/NASA/CXC/MPE/SDSS hide caption

itoggle caption J.Sanders et al/NASA/CXC/MPE/SDSS

Your direct connection with the stars and all of the space in between them. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Even if we find other life out there, in the depths of space, life here will still be a rare gem that must be worshipped and preserved at all costs. ESO hide caption

itoggle caption ESO

A bubble in space: Abell 39 marks the death of a star like the sun. Wind from the aging central star pushes into the surrounding interstellar gas, building up a dense shell that glows blue in this image. After 36 years of travel, the Voyager spacecraft is just now reaching the edge of the sun's own wind-blown bubble. WIYN/NOAO/NSF hide caption

itoggle caption WIYN/NOAO/NSF

Gold exists, just as it really is, just as the physicist knows it to be, and that has nothing to do with us. Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

The Milky Way fills the night sky over Chile's Cerro Paranal, home to the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT). Y.Beletsky/ESO hide caption

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The Milky Way dominates the sky over Chile's Atacama Desert, home to the European Southern Observatory. John Colosimo/ESO hide caption

itoggle caption John Colosimo/ESO

This illustration shows the relative sizes of the habitable-zone planets Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e, Kepler-62f and the Earth. NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech hide caption

itoggle caption NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) as observed by Planck. The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380,000 years old. Planck Collaboration/ESA hide caption

itoggle caption Planck Collaboration/ESA

Science has been working to shed light on the nature of the Universe for 400 years. Alberto Pomares/iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption Alberto Pomares/iStockphoto.com

A computer simulation of the formation of large-scale structures in the Universe, showing a patch of 100 million light-years and the resulting coherent motions of galaxies flowing towards the highest mass concentration in the centre. The snapshot refers to an epoch about 10 billion years back in time. Klaus Dolag/VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey/ESO hide caption

itoggle caption Klaus Dolag/VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey/ESO