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Abstract

This paper attempts to set the Earth in a cosmic perspective. It discusses the Sun’s life cycle in the context of stellar evolution, and the ideas of stellar nucleosynthesis, as an explanation of the origin of the atoms on the Earth. Current ideas on how planetary systems form are mentioned, along with data on recently discovered planets around other stars. The origin of matter itself can be traced back to a ‘Big Bang’: corroboration of this model comes from the microwave background and from observed helium and deuterium abundances. There is now a concordance between stellar ages and the cosmic evolutionary timescale inferred from cosmology, from which we derive an age for the universe. Recent progress brings into focus a new set of questions about the ultra-early universe. Until these can be answered, it will remain a mystery why the universe is expanding in the observed fashion, and why it contains the measured mix of atoms, radiation and dark matter.

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